Scene from Inxeba (The Wound). Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - The producers of isiXhosa film Inxeba (The Wound), filed an urgent interdict overturning the reclassification of the film.

Over the weekend, the producers, through their attorneys Webber Wentzel, served a lawsuit to the Film and Publication Board (FPB) Appeals Tribunal. The FPB overturned their original classification rating of 16 LS to X18, classifying the film in the same category as hardcore pornography.

The tribunal was chaired by Christopher Mamathuntsha and included Professor AS Magwaza, Nonkoliso Sigcau, Manko Buffel, Lutendo Malada, Sizwe Snail Ka Mtuze, and Lihle Mapipa Ndlovu.

Among the reasons for the reclassification, were the Appeals Tribunal’s finding that there was no “scientific, educational and artistic value” in the film.

The producers said that it would be difficult to say the film lacks artistic value and said the tribunal gave no explanation.

“Since there was no explanation on how the Tribunal reached this specific conclusion, it’s not easy to respond to it,” said producer Cait Pansegrouw.

“What I can say is that it would be difficult to argue that our film lacks artistic value, given that it has won 20 awards of excellence internationally and within South Africa. Harvard University, Oxford University, various South African tertiary institutions, and local movements such as Equal Education also have showed interest in including ‘Inxeba’ in their curriculums and programmes.”

Helen Kuun, MD of Indigenous Film Distribution, said the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) in Gauteng and The Man and Boy Foundation, both filed an appeal with the tribunal based on the perceived cultural insensitivity towards the Xhosa initiation tradition, and requested a revised rating of 18. However, the Appeals Tribunal reclassified the film as X18, meaning that it could only be distributed from designated adult premises (sex shops), and forcing the immediate removal of the film from cinemas.

“We find this ruling sinister, as the ‘X18’ rating was not requested by the appellants, and it cannot be reasonably justified by anyone who has seen the film,” Kuun said.

“It is also worrying that the Appeals Tribunal reached this decision without giving the distributor and producer a proper opportunity to make submissions on the matter. This is plainly unlawful.”

Kuun added that the producers and their legal team were awaiting a response to their urgent interdict by Tuesday, and said that they planned to be in court next week.

In the meantime, the producers and distributor have asked members of the public not to watch, circulate or buy pirated copies of the film.

“Please do not support piracy,” said Kuun.

“We are working hard to find legal avenues to make the film available to all those who want to see it. Given the current rating of the film, it is also illegal and a criminal offence currently to view it anywhere, on any platform, either free or paid for. We are very encouraged by the support and enthusiasm of fans, but we urge patience while the legal process unfolds.”

The South African Federation Against Copyright Theft (SAFACT) will be instituting legal procedures against any business or individual breaching the intellectual property rights held by ‘Inxeba’.

African News Agency/ANA