The South African high court ruling has overturned the Film and Publication Board’s decision restricting screenings of the drama The Wound, Variety reports. The Sundance movie, which was short-listed for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, had its South African release cut short after the board gave it an adult rating for its LGBT content and barred screenings from anything other than “designated adult premises.”
The film has been the subject of much controversy; violent protests interrupted at its local premiere. The Xhosa people (the second-largest ethnic group in South Africa) objected to the movie’s depiction of their initiation ceremony for men. Others said the community was mainly protesting The Wound because of homophobic leanings. The South African film board felt that limiting screenings to adult theaters would “protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful material.” The decision was made after months of protests from Xhosa leaders.
The film, which was originally restricted to audiences over the age of 16, now has an 18-and-older rating, but it can be shown in a larger group of theaters. The film’s producer, Cait Pansegrouw, hailed the court’s decision that “the public has a right … to see a [film] of this nature” a “temporary victory.”
She told Variety that the original rating was an “unlawful reclassification,” and that efforts to make the movie accessible are not just a battle for its success but “a fight for the freedom and rights of all South African artists and filmmakers.”
“The South African film and arts community still deserves to hear a real explanation of how the tribunal arrived at such an embarrassing violation of our legal and constitutional rights in the first place,” remarked director John Trengove, who called the ruling a “vindicated victory for the film.”
The film has racked up awards and accolades for its exploration of sexuality and masculinity from a South African perspective. “Homosexuals have the constitutional right to exist in the country,” Prince Manen Tabene, of the Council of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, responded to the ruling. “They are in our rural areas, they have a right to life and we don’t want to harm them.” He told Variety, “The issue is that no one should be allowed to go to the sacred place to practice their own thing. They must go with the view of doing what they are told.”