By Kevin Kriedemann
Published August 5, 2013
South African Jahmil Qubeka, Cameroonian Jean-Pierre Bekolo and Angolan Joao Viana have appeared on South 2 North, Al Jazeera TV’s global talk show to discuss censorship in the aftermath of South Africa’s Film and Publication Board banning OF GOOD REPORT, the opening night movie at the 34th Durban International Film Festival (July 18-28, 2013).
OF GOOD REPORT, a psychological thriller in which a teacher becomes obsessed with his student, was banned for allegedly showing ‘child pornography’.
But Qubeka, the director of the film, describes it as ‘your classical tale of lust, shameful lust’.
While agreeing that child pornography should be banned, Qubeka says OF GOOD REPORT is “making an indictment… For teenagers this is a horror film. I want kids, particularly girls, to watch this and I want to scare them.”
The banning was over-turned and the film rated 16 on appeal. However, Qubeka is says he is also proceeding with a defamation case against the Film and Publication Board of South Africa.
Reflecting on the effects of the ban, Qubeka says, “I’m not sad for me. This has turned me into a superstar. My life has changed in a week. I’ve been in Variety magazine three times. What I am sad for is my nation because my nation was refused the right to see the film.”
Qubeka calls his role as a filmmaker a ‘privilege’ and describes film as ‘the definitive artform of the 21st century.’
“Self reflection,” Qubeka says, “is the only way you can develop. We are the mirrors of our society: If we are living in an age where our government is putting down draconian policies that don’t allow self-reflection, instead we showcase a world that is actually not real, so how will we get to a place of seeing where we are?”
On the other hand, LE PRESIDENTE was was sidelined in Cameroon earlier in 2013 because Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s film discussed the end of 80-year-old President Paul Biya’s reign, a topic that is taboo in the country.
“He was minister in 1962; Barack Obama was one year old,” Bekolo says. “He’s been there forever. You don’t have to be a genius to think that an 80-year-old man can go one day.”
Pointing out that “everyone will give me money to make a film once the president is gone to say how bad he was,” Bekolo says he rather made the film now ‘to anticipate and start a conversation about what will happen when he leaves or if he leaves. When you see the Congo, Cote D’Ivoire, these are presidents who stay in power (very long) and then you have 20 years of war afterwards. Films always come when everything is over. Why? Why can’t cinema be there even before the problems, to reflect what is happening, so we can fix it?”
He says cinema has always played a political and social function. “I really think right now we have forgotten the very nature of cinema in the first place. Cinema is not neutral.”
Later, he adds, “Many African filmmakers I know have political films, but all of them have given up. Today Africa is not at peace. We’re not really developed. We even have foreign troops on our continent. But our films are now very, very nice. We’re not talking about anything anymore.”
THE BATTLE OF TABATO by Joao Viana of Angola is the story of a town in Guinea-Bissau filled with musicians. While this film hasn’t been banned, Joao Viana says, “I think my film is banned, too, because I don’t have cinemas to show the film in in Guinea-Bissau. It’s a kind of economic censorship.”
He stresses the need to retell Africa’s history without the influence of colonialism.
“It’s very important because it’s always told from the perspective of colonialism. What I learned in school, and even later, is completely wrong. I learned in school that man came from Africa, this is obvious, but that modern culture was born in Europe. It’s wrong. Even the Egyptians, they tell us that the Egyptians are white people. Why?” he poses rhetorically.
The three directors, whose show was held on August 2, 2013, also discuss funding in Africa; whether governments should provide money for films and when films should be banned, if ever.
Presented by Redi Tlhabi from Johannesburg, South Africa, South2North is a weekly show that is a mix of politics, culture, music, health and science.