Johannesburg - Eastern Cape traditional leaders have vowed to “stop at nothing” to defend cultural Xhosa initiation and ensure the film Inxeba is not screened in South African cinemas.
Protests led by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of SA (Contralesa) in the province on Friday forced cinemas to postpone the film’s screening.
A staff member at Ster-Kinekor in Port Elizabeth’s Baywest Mall, said the film was cancelled after protesters threatened to vandalise the cinema.
“I doubt it is going to show in the Eastern Cape at all,” he said. “People don’t want the movie. We don’t want to risk our lives.”
At East London’s Hemingways Mall on Friday, police and private security guards were on high alert.
Provincial Contralesa secretary Nkosi Mkhanyiseli Dudumayo denied that threats were made. He said they opposed the film because it promoted sex in initiation schools, misrepresented cultural initiation, was filled with inaccuracies and showed explicit images and scenes regarded as secret.
Dudumayo led a crowd of about 80 protesters in East London. He said they may have won the battle in the Eastern Cape, but not the war against the film showing across the country. He said they were preparing court papers to challenge its continued screening.
“This movie is misleading. It is hurting, to say the least. The only people who are likely to enjoy it are those who have not gone into traditional male initiation. I have watched the movie and it is not correct in its entirety.
“For instance, there is a scene where amakankatha [traditional nurses] are in a love affair and we see them kissing and, together with an initiate, are involved in a sexual relationship. We have never seen this before in our custom.
“Ibhoma [initiation school] is not a place for sex. It’s a sacred place where discipline should prevail.”
He said traditional leaders were not homophobic.
“Boys undergo initiation. We don’t say this one is gay, this one is not. We are dealing with boys, regardless of their sexual preferences. Initiation schools are not a place for love affairs and sex.”
Nkosi Phakamile Makinana said the movie ridiculed Xhosa customs.
“We are not saying gays are not welcome in initiation schools. What we are against is the promotion of sex in initiation schools. In Buffalo City, I have men who are gay. They were initiates recently and I monitored them myself,” he said.
“We did not see any sex, like it is shown in this movie, happening between them even. Any sex is not allowed in initiation school.”
Indigenous Film Distribution, the company releasing the film in South Africa, said in a statement yesterday that ahead of its opening weekend, prescreenings were held around the country, and 85% of attendants gave it the thumbs up.
Helen Kuun, managing director, said: “It was also the number one film at seven of the venues where it screened on Friday.”
The film makers have submitted a complaint to the Human Rights Commission, after protesters at several cinemas threatened to follow and kill staff if the screening of the film went ahead.
Writer-director John Trengove said: “Inxeba is not going to go away ... It’s not the first piece of work to speak about initiation and I’m certain it won’t be the last.”