‘Inxeba’ has been hailed by critics wherever it has screened and, to date, has won 19 awards at 44 festivals in more than 25 countries worldwide, including South Africa. That momentum is showing no signs of slowing down as the film recently scored 8 SAFTA nominations ahead of the awards show set to take place in March.
The film was also shortlisted for this year's Oscars® in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.
“We are overwhelmed and incredibly honoured by the positive response from the judges,” says director John Trengove, in a statement.
“No other film has racked up as many SAFTA nominations, and it is particularly rewarding to receive this level of recognition today, when the film has opened on the local circuit, to much criticism for its perceived cultural insensitivity,” he added.
Responding today to violent threats against the film and its cast, the producers have laid complaints with the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality.
“Human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from gender oppression and inequality are protected by our Constitution,” said Trengove, before adding, “’Inxeba’ 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.”
Trengrove mentioned that he has also observed that the backlash against ‘Inxeba’ seems to be proportionally much larger than it was to Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ (which delves into the same subject matter Inxeba is criticised for). “You could look at that and speculate that perhaps there is a homophobic subtext,” said the director.
The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has rated the movie 16, advising that it contains scenes with strong Language, Sex, and Nudity (16 LSN). The FBB has advised that despite complaints that have been received based on perceived cultural insensitivity, restricting the launch of the film would be a direct contravention to Section 16 of the South African Constitution as well as the provisions of the Films and Publication Act No.96 of 1996 as amended.
Traditional leaders, Contralesa and the EFF rallied marches against the film today and several protests took place at various cinemas across the country, with some sites having to postpone screenings of the film. There have been reports that cinema staff received death threats from protestors
"While we respect those who choose not to watch the film, it is unacceptable that South Africans who do want to see it are being prevented from doing so,” said producers Elias Ribeiro and Cait Pansegrouw of Urucu Media.
“What is even more unacceptable is the fact that people’s lives are being threatened. We urge the parties leading these protests to take responsibility for their representatives and put an end to this behavior,” added the producers.
"The fierce criticism of ‘Inxeba’ has been matched by the love and support of those who have been willing to open their minds to a new expression in South African cinema, and we thank you for that,” said co-writer Malusi Bengu.
Bengu reiterated “the criticism was expected and is understandable but we must draw the line on ignorance. ‘Inxeba’ does not reveal any mountain secrets, the death of young boys making headlines broke the sacred seal of our initiation. The negative responses have only served to highlight how difficult it is going to be to re-engineer the Black man into a more rounded being."
Despite the backlash and some sites having to cancel screenings, the film is performing quite well and has received a predominantly positive response from those who have actually seen the film.
Since July 2017, the film has been screened at venues around the country to encourage discussion and dialogue between the filmmakers and various audiences.
“We took the film into several spaces across the country, particularly those that do not have access to cinemas in their communities and made absolutely sure to do this in the Eastern Cape above all,” stated producer Cait Pansegrouw.
“There was no focus on specific sectors of the population, as stated by the Man and Boy Foundation representative on ANN7 yesterday. All screenings were open to anyone who RSVP’d to attend,” she continued.
“Inxeba also showed at South African film festivals last year, 2 in Kwa-Zulu Natal and 1 in the Western Cape. Again, these screenings were open to members of the public. To imply that we purposely excluded certain people or organisations from seeing the film is just not true,” she concludes.
“’Inxeba’ is not the first piece of work to speak about initiation and I’m certain it won’t be the last,” Trengove said.
“It’s a complete fallacy to say that the film exposes anything that is not already known. I must state categorically that we did a tremendous amount of research, working with Xhosa men who have been through initiation, in writing and developing this film,” adds Trengrove.
‘Inxeba’ is currently screening at selected cinemas around the country.
Main image credit: Supplied