South Africa Film Board Slaps 'The Wound' With Over-18 Adult Rating

South Africa’s film board has slapped the Oscar short-listed LGBT drama “The Wound” with an adult rating, effectively banning it from general theaters less than two weeks after its local release.

The decision by the Film and Publication Board’s Appeal Tribunal to reclassify the movie with an X18 rating restricts screenings to “designated adult premises,” a move it says will “protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful material.” The rating reversal came in the wake of months-long protests led by Xhosa traditional leaders against “The Wound,” which explores sexuality, masculinity and cultural identity against the backdrop of the Xhosa initiation ceremony.

South Africa’s main opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said it “strongly condemns” the film board’s ruling, describing it as “one step away from an outright ban.” The producers are now exploring legal options, according to Urucu Media’s Elias Ribeiro.

Protests across South Africa earlier this month disrupted the film’s local premiere, with seven of the 20 cinemas taking part in the nationwide release pulling the movie in the wake of scenes of violence.

According to the new rating ruling, the complaints against director John Trengove’s movie were “largely based on the perceived cultural insensitivity and distortion of the Xhosa circumcision tradition.” But critics from the outset have said their objections were underlain by homophobia, in light of the film’s depictions of a love affair between two Xhosa men.

Ribeiro said he was “obviously disappointed [by the ruling], given how it has classified this important work of art that explores themes around the construction of masculinity as an X-rated film.”

Helen Kuun, of indie distributor Indigenous Film, called the decision “a first” in democratic South Africa.

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