The movie Of Good Report directed by South African Jahmil Qubeka is the first film to be banned since 1994. The screening of the movie was cancelled on the opening night of the 34th DIFF (Durban International Film Festival) on Thursday 18 July at the Sun Coast Cinema complex.
Professor Keyan Tomaselli, director of The Centre for Communication, Media and Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, has issued a draft paper on the analysis of breaking conditions currently unfolding at the DIFF. Tomaselli is the author of Encountering Modernity: 20th Century South African Cinemas (2007) and the Cinema of Apartheid (1988).
Tomaselli advises that delegates at the DIFF need to:
- Acknowledge that the Film and Publication Board (FPB) is a classification body with a special brief regarding the prevention of child pornography. It is not a censor board.
- The issue of the banning goes far deeper than simply trying to apportion blame on individuals working in a single state department.
- The issue goes to the core of our democracy and how legislation is formulated and interpreted, to serve what policy, which constituencies, for what reason and with what effect.
He continues: “The real issue now is not the banning of Of Good Report but the conducting of a broader public debate that enables policy makers to respond intelligently, accountably and appropriately to bigger issues relating to the public sphere.
In sum, this controversial event has probably opened up a debate at the right time as indeed it reminds us that transparency and accountability is required in all sectors of our society all the time. Debate around Of Good Report has however in its own way reignited public awareness of the dangers of censorship, especially in the political realm, though I (Tomaselli) don’t think that the banning Of Good Report was a political decision.’
Tomaselli says “the social mission of the filmmakers of Of Good Report is upfront and the context of the banning – as they indicated at the DIFF – is therefore indicative for them of much broader and draconian attempts at censorship as found in the Protection of State Information Act. Film often plays a key role in national discourse, and we need to ensure that the explosive reigniting of debate over the right to free expression and access to information generated by the banning of the movie Of Good Report is used to good effect.’
He concludes: “What gets represented is discomforting for everyone – perhaps that’s the way it should be in a violent and disintegrating society like ours? Whether or not Of Good Report is a good film or bad film no longer matters. What matters now is the direction that our hard-won, and easily lost, democracy is taking.’