SAHRC receives complaint about cancelled screenings of Inxeba movie

Johannesburg - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has received a complaint about the cancelled screenings of the controversial and award-winning film Inxeba: The Wound, it said on Wednesday. 

The film ruffled feathers in some parts of the country, resulting in a suspension of screenings at two cinemas in the Eastern Cape. 

Objectors to the film say that the content not only flouts cultural norms and practice, but is an inaccurate portrayal of the initiation practice, the commission's spokesperson Gail Smith said in a statement.

Smith condemned violent protests and threats made in relation to the screening of the movie. She said the commission was monitoring reports of intimidation, threats of violence and death threats made in relation to the screening of the movie. 

"The Commission thus calls on all who feel aggrieved by Inxeba: The Wound to exercise their right to protest within the confines of the law, and to engage more constructively about the concerns to ensure that while the protests demonstrate an objection, the act of protest  remains lawful and in accordance with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

Traditional leaders protested at major cinemas in East London and Port Elizabeth on Friday last week - the day it finally reached local screens.

Manager at Nu Metro Cinemas in Walmer Park, Mark Whitnall, said at the time that a group of people had protested against the movie and called for a boycott of the mall on Friday.

The film also sparked outrage on social media, with celebrities Loyiso Bala and Emtee turning to Twitter to express their views. 

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural‚ Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL) recently ruled that the film was "blasphemous to the sacred rituals of initiation", saying the use of Jesus Christ and King Shaka Zulu "poses a concern in our young democracy and the film may incite violence".

The CRL Commission received a complaint from amaXhosa King Zwelonke Sigcawu, with a memorandum from Contralesa and the Man and Boy Foundation.

In the statement released by the SAHRC on Wednesday, Smith said the Constitution recognised the complexities relating to the right to freedom of expression.

"The Commission is mindful that the rights to culture, dignity, protest and freedom of expression are protected in our law. Our protections are similar in nature to protections for these rights globally," Smith said. 

'Allowing artistic creativity to flourish'

"The protections are in place to allow artistic creativity to flourish and through such creativity to stimulate thought and opinion in democratic countries like South Africa. In South Africa the protections apply to art forms, including music and to the media. Where expression of this nature has to be limited, it must be shown to violate the rights to equality and dignity before it may be prohibited in or our law."

The film claimed eight South African Film and Television Awards (Safta) nominations, including for Best Actor, Best Directing and Best Film.

It has also won 19 awards at 44 festivals in more than 25 countries, including South Africa. The film has been shortlisted for this year's Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.