How Inxeba beat the hatred

2018-08-05 07:31

Johannesburg - The South African distributor of the controversial, award-winning gay Xhosa initiation film Inxeba (The Wound) is unfazed by the latest alphabet soup classification made by the Film and Publication Board (FPB) for the film’s DVD release. The FPB has rated it 18 DLNPSV.

That means it can only be watched by viewers who are over 18 because it has scenes which contain drugs or alcohol (there’s dagga smoking), bad language (people swear), nudity (bums are on show), prejudice (several social groups will feel offended), sex (men make love even though this is not explicit) and violence (there’s a murder and a few conflicts).

“The film does contain all these elements and viewers must know,” said independent distributor Helen Kuun of Indigenous Film Distribution.

“According to law in the Eastern Cape, when initiation involves circumcision the individual has to be 18 years of age to make this decision. An individual may elect to undergo initiation at the age of 16 if it does not involve circumcision. Therefore the 18 has an origin that sits outside the realm of film making but resides in South African laws.”

Inxeba’s original 16 LS rating was overturned after an appeal by traditional leaders and it was rated 18 LNPSVX, the X standing for explicit sex, making it eligible only for porn shops. While a court case was underway to overturn the overturned rating and restore the 16 LS rating, Inxeba was temporarily rated 18 LNPSV so it could return to cinemas despite protests and death threats.

It was believed opposition to the film and its removal from cinemas would destroy its box office takings, but the opposite seems to have happened.

“It came back to cinemas and ticket sales surged,” said Kuun. “At the local box office it fetched more than double what a black, gay film like Moonlight did – and that won the best picture Oscar – and it matched Brokeback Mountain.”

Which doesn’t mean the producers are rich or have even covered their costs. Half the box office takings go to the cinema showing the film, and the producers ended up having to pay their own Oscar campaign costs when Inxeba was short-listed for best foreign film.

One of Inxeba’s producers, Cait Pansegrouw, said she isn’t surprised by the support.

“There’s still a misconception that everyone was offended by the film, but there were also massive waves of support. People were telling me they loved it so much they went to watch it three or four times,” she said this week.

The opposition to Inxeba made it one of the most talked about films in years, further serving as an international career launchpad for its stars. It lifted 28 international awards and was sold in more than 40 territories across the globe.

Director John Trengove is now writing three feature films and has been signed by two of the world’s biggest agents, Independent in the UK and CAA in the US.

(A scene from Inxeba. Photo: Supplied/Nu Metro)

One of Inxeba’s lead actors, Bongile Mantsai, will star in two films by celebrated local director Jahmil XT Qubeka.

Niza Jay has moved to Los Angeles, where he was signed by an agent and is taking acting classes, auditioning and preparing to land plum roles.

The third member of the Inxeba love triangle, Nakhane, has conquered the planet.

His album You Will Not Die has seen him booked for the biggest festivals in the world, and he has received love from superstars Elton John and Madonna. He’s landed a role in a US film, has been signed by major agents (including Paradigm in the US and Coda in the UK), and has a new short story heading for publication. He told City Press he is about to kick off a tour of the US and will soon shoot a new music video.

Inxeba is currently streaming on Netflix in the US, and will be available on pay-per-view in South Africa in September. From October 1 the DVD will hit retail stores.

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