South African queer film The Wound, which is currently in release in Australia, has been effectively banned from mainstream cinemas in South Africa following a ruling by the country’s classification tribunal.
The Film and Publication Board’s Appeal Tribunal reclassified the film with an X18 rating, restricting screenings to “designated adult premises”, according to Huffington Post South Africa.
The Democratic Alliance, the country’s main opposition party, stated that it “strongly condemns” the move, saying it is “one step away from an outright ban.”
The film, which explores masculinity through a romantic relationship between two men involved in a Xhosa initiation ritual, has been lauded internationally and was shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
However, The Wound has been the subject of months of protest back home, with the Tribunal citing complaints about “perceived cultural insensitivity and distortion of the Xhosa circumcision tradition (Ulwaluko), strong language in the film”.
In making the ruling, the Tribunal stated that it would “protect” children from “disturbing and harmful material” and “premature exposure to adult experiences”.
One of the film’s producers, Cait Pansegrouw, released a statement following the decision.
“We are obviously disappointed in the outcome, given how the FBP has classified an important work of art that explores themes around masculinity, love and identity as an X-rated film,” Pansegrouw said.
“We were really committed to participating in the Indaba so we could have an open dialogue and find one-another in a structured and constructive process, where all parties invited were certain of their rights and how they would be protected.
“Unfortunately, the Commission did not provide us with the relevant details and assurances we requested to enable our participation.”
Earlier this month, the filmmakers behind The Wound filed a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission after receiving violent threats, while staff at cinemas which planned screenings of the film reportedly received death threats.
In a statement at the time, director John Trengove said, “Human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from gender oppression and inequality are protected by our Constitution.”
“Inxeba (The Wound) is not for everyone, but there are many young South Africans, particularly from the black queer community, who have every right to watch and engage with it because it reflects something of their own experience.”
The film’s previous rating was 16 LSN, restricting the film to viewers 16 years and over and cautioning audiences of the film’s language and depiction of sex and nudity.
The new rating means distributors need a special license to screen the film even to viewers over 18 years.