SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: The highly anticipated 34th Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) got off to a controversial start on Thursday 18 July when festival manager Peter Machen told an astounded audience that Of Good Report, the opening movie, would not be screened.
He also said that no other film would open the first night of the event in honour of everyone involved in the making of Of Good Report.
Audience members comprising local and international filmmakers, media and industry stakeholders waited for the movie, directed by South African Jahmil XT Qubeka, to be screened when Machen announced that the Film and Publication Board had deemed the movie unfit for public viewing due to alleged child pornography content.
Instead, a statement was screened which read: “This film has been refused classification by the Film and Publication Board in terms of the Film and Publications Act 1996. Unfortunately we may not legally screen the film Of Good Report as to do so would constitute a criminal offence’.
The film was produced by Mike Auret and Luzuko Dilima of Spier Films and was funded by European stakeholders. A clearly shocked Auret said: “We will immediately appeal this decision and take it to the Constitutional Court.’
Of Good Report, which tells the tale of a small town high school teacher with an affinity for young girls has been banned from showing in South Africa but will screen at international film festivals soon.
Before the film was due to screen Qubeka said: “I made an exciting film and this is a project that came to us through the Durban FilmMart (DFM). We put our hearts and souls into it.’
The Film and Publication Board has yet to respond on its decision to ban the screening of the movie.
Machen’s announcement put a damper on one of the highlights of the South African film industry calendar despite commencing with a standing ovation in honour of former president Nelson Mandela and the fact that the opening of the festival coincided with the icon’s 95th birthday.
Logie Naidoo, the deputy mayor of Durban, said: “The City of Durban views film production in a very serious light and regards the city as a wonderful location for making movies. Durban has been chosen as one of the top 100 cities for conferences and we believe the DIFF has contributed to that status.’
Shortly after Naidoo, Zama Mkosi, CEO of the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), remarked: “It’s exciting to be here as eThekwini is my home ground. The NFVF is honoured to be associated with the festival as it continues to showcase national and international films in a manner that is accessible to audiences who would otherwise not have the opportunity to see these movies.’
DIFF runs until 28 July with more than 250 screenings in 11 venues across the city scheduled.
The DFM is a joint programme of DIFF and the Durban Film Office, while DIFF also hosts Talent Campus Durban, an industry development initiative.
Visit www.durbanfilmfest.co.za for more information and to view the full programme.
Report by Martie Bester