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Durban Film Festival


Opening film banned

Nothing short of an outrage. That's the only way I can describe the gagging of art and artists in the new supposedly free South Africa.
Hallo film festivals lovers. Its time for the 34th Durban International Festival which kicked off on 18 July with shocking events on day 1. 
The opening film, Of Good Report, was not screened as it was banned by the SA Film and Publications Board aka Big Brother - the first film to be banned in SA in twenty years.
The organisers were informed of this a couple of hours before the screening. They screened a slide of the banning, followed by an explanation and the director, Jahmil XT Qubeka, burning his passport in disgust. Organisers chose not to show another film as that would have been an insult to the artist.
I arrived in the sunny city this morning (day 2 of the festival) during the post mortem of opening day and the festival is soldiering on amidst threats of a petition, the university objecting to the decision and cries of censoring by BB.
Some angry filmmakers and media even asked why DIFF didn't just the show the film even though it was banned. I don't agree with that call as it would have jeopardised the entire festival. BB may have been shortsighted, but pissing him off will mean the end of DIFF. 
I was under the impression DIFF did not have to submit its films for classifiation as this will uphold its strong character of integrity and freedom, something it has become known for. Peter Machen, the new manager, however, said during the media launch they didn't have to submit films in the past and that they had to pay for their freedom (exception cost money) and that this year they were informed to submit films.
BB turned out to be a moral watchdog similar to the board of the the Apartheid days and banned the film on the grounds of child pornography even though the actress in question is 23 years old. This only proves the more things change, the more they stay the same.
What's next  for DIFF? Chances of seeing Of good report are small as BB has to change its mind. The film, is however, available on the still free worldwide web. There is a good side to all of this. Bad publicity is good publicity. My festival kicks off with Zwei Mutter (apparently more controversial than Of good report), the superb The Hunt (Jagten) and State 194 about the Middle East issue. Hopefully BB doesn't step in and either one gets banned. After his actions anything is possible. 


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