Oscar short-listed LGBT drama “The Wound” returned to South African theaters Friday, weeks after its local release was cut short when the country’s film board slapped it with an adult rating.
A high court ruling Tuesday overturned the earlier decision by the Film and Publication Board’s Appeal Tribunal, giving the controversial film a pending 18-and-over restriction until the matter returns to court March 28.
Members of the Xhosa community object to the movie’s depiction of their traditional initiation ceremony for men. Critics say the protests are driven by homophobia. A last-ditch effort by the National House of Traditional Leaders to prevent the “The Wound’s” return to theaters was shot down early Friday, with a high court judge ruling that “the public has a right…to see a [film] of this nature.”
Producer Cait Pansegrouw hailed the decision, which she called a “temporary victory.”
“It is still rated 18,” she said, citing the “unlawful reclassification” of a film that was originally deemed suitable for audiences over the age of 16. “This is no longer a fight for [‘The Wound’]. This is a fight for the freedom and rights of all South African artists and filmmakers.”
The film board’s reversal last month, which gave the movie an X18 rating, restricted screenings to “designated adult premises,” a move it said would “protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful material.” The decision came in the wake of months-long protests led by Xhosa traditional leaders against the film, and followed violent protests that disrupted its local premiere.
Since bowing at Sundance last year, “The Wound” has won over audiences and critics with its frank exploration of sexuality, masculinity and cultural identity. Racking up a string of local and international awards, it was short-listed for this year’s foreign-language Oscar and earned eight nominations at the South African Film and Television Awards.
Reacting to the ruling earlier this week, Prince Manene Tabane, of the Council of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, rejected the notion that his group was opposed to the film’s LGBT themes.
“Homosexuals have the constitutional right to exist in the country,” he told local media. “They are in our rural areas, they have a right to life and we don’t want to harm them. 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.”
Director John Trengove called the return to cinemas “a vindicated victory for the film,” but added that “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.”