Cape Town - Responding to violent threats against the release of the film Inxeba (The Wound) and its cast, the producers have laid complaints with the South African Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Gender Equality.
Several cinemas in the Eastern and Western Cape on Friday afternoon announced they would be cancelling the screening of the film.
Traditional leaders, Contralesa and the EFF rallied marches against the film and several protests took place at various cinemas across the country. There have been reports that cinema staff received death threats from protestors.
The film, which depicts the development of a same-sex love-affair in the midst of a Xhosa initiation ritual, has been accused of disrespecting a sacred rite of passage.
"Human rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from gender oppression and inequality are protected by our Constitution," director John Trengove said in a statement.
He added: "Inxeba is not for everyone, but there are many young South Africans, particularly from the black queer community, who have every right to watch and engage with it because it reflects something of their own experience."
The Film and Publications Board (FPB) has rated the movie 16, advising that it contains scenes with strong Language, Sex, and Nudity (16 LSN).
The FBB has advised that despite complaints that have been received based on perceived cultural insensitivity, restricting the launch of the film would be a direct contravention to Section 16 of the South African Constitution as well as the provisions of the Films and Publication Act No.96 of 1996 as amended.
"While we respect those who choose not to watch the film, it is unacceptable that South Africans who do want to see it are being prevented from doing so," said producers Elias Ribeiro and Cait Pansegrouw of Urucu Media. "What is even more unacceptable is the fact that people’s lives are being threatened. We urge the parties leading these protests to take responsibility for their representatives and put an end to this behaviour."
Inxeba earlier on Friday swept the board with 8 South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) nominations, including Best Actor, Best Directing and Best Film.
The film has been hailed by critics wherever it screened and, to date, has won 19 awards at 44 festivals in more than 25 countries worldwide, including South Africa. The film was also shortlisted for this year's Oscars in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.