Following what transpired at the opening night of the 2013 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), director Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s “Of Good Report” will go down in history as one of the most spectacular opening night films seen by almost no one. After the obligatory opening night speeches–many of them evoking Nelson Mandela on his birthday, the pre-1994 struggle against Apartheid, for freedom of expression, and DIFF’s role in that struggle–the lights were turned off for the film to start. Only that there was no film, just white text (supplied by the Film and Publications Board, the local censors) against a black background stating the film had been refused classification and that it would be a criminal offense to screen it. The local film community understandably is not amused.
Qubeka’s third feature tells the story of Parker Sithole (Mothusi Magano), a schoolteacher involved in a relationship with one of his students Nolitha Ngubane (played by 23-year old Petronella Tshuma). It is a story of unhealthy and illegal liaisons, power, abuse and obsession, which ultimately takes both the disturbed teacher and his beautiful student down a dark and extremely violent road.
Qubeka–his mouth taped shut–and his co-producers, cast and crew–as baffled as the audience–came onto the stage and then proceeded to burn what looked like a South African identity document (ID) book or a passport. He then threw document on the floor and proceeded to hug his cast and crew. As the drama unfolded, the audience–some shell-shocked and silent, others whistling and shouting in disgust–tried to make sense of what was unfolding:
It turned that 28 minutes and 16 seconds into Qubeka’s third feature, the Film and Publication Board’s classification committee had stopped the classification process (which means that they interrupted the viewing of the film) after unanimously agreeing that a sex scene between Parker and Nolitha’s characters a couple of minutes before, constituted child pornography. In another scene following shortly after the sex scene, Nolitha’s character appears in a classroom dressed in the school-uniform of a ninth grader. Conclusion: the character of Nolitha is a child and a scene where she is engaged in sexual interaction is child pornography.
UPDATE: This film was unbanned over the weekend by the Film and Publications Board, which slapped a 16 age restriction