The Banning of African Film | South 2 North

south to north

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? I really think right now we have forgotten the very nature of cinema in the first place. Cinema is not neutral.

– Jean-Pierre Bekolo

On Al Jazeera’s global talk show South 2 North, Redi Tlhabi speaks to three film directors in the aftermath of South Africa’s Film and Publication Board banning Of Good Report, the opening night movie at Durban International Film Festival.

Of Good Report director Jahmil Qubeka joins Cameroon’s Jean-Pierre Bekolo (Le President) and Angola’s João Viana (The Battle of Tabatô ) in South 2 North’s Johannesburg studio. 


Director Jahmil Qubeka

Of Good Report was banned for allegedly showing ‘child pornography.’ Jahmil describes the psychological thriller as “your classical tale of lust, shameful lust…,” saying that it’s about a teacher who becomes obsessed with his student “to a point where he cannot see that he’s obsessed with a child.” While agreeing that child pornography should be banned, Jahmil says Of Good Report is rather “making an indictment… For teenagers this a horror film. I want kids, particularly girls, to watch this and I want to scare them.”

Qubeka managed to get the banning over-turned and is also proceeding with a defamation case against the Film and Publication Board of South Africa.

Reflecting on the effects of the ban, he 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. Self reflection 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?

Calling his role as a filmmaker “a privilege” he also describes film as “the definitive artform of the 21st century.” Watch this short interview where Qubeka elaborates further on his criticism of the Film Board’s decision:

Le President was sidelined in Cameroon earlier this year because Jean-Pierre’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. 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.


Director Jean-Pierre Bekolo

Pointing out that “everyone will give me money to make a film once the president is gone to say how bad he was,” he says he would 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, the Cote D’Ivoire, these are presidents who stay in power (very long) and then you have 20 years of war afterwards.”

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Kenyan Films at Durban International Film Festival 18 – 28 July 2013


Be sure to catch the 2013 Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) in South Africa. With principal funding by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, the festival returns for its 34th year to celebrate the beauty and diversity of global cinema. From 18 to 28 July, Durban will be illuminated by the glow of the silver screen, with over 250 screenings in 11 venues across the city. Alongside this smorgasbord of the best of contemporary cinema from around, comprising 72 feature films, 48 documentaries and 45 short films, the festival offers a comprehensive workshop and seminar programme that facilitates the sharing of knowledge and skills by film industry experts.

Running in parallel to the general Festival programme, this year’s Talent Campus Durban offers three hands-on training programmes: Doc Station which will focus on documentary-making, Talent Press which is dedicated to film criticism and Script Station which will foster story development. Although her films are not screening this year, Kenyan artist and filmmaker Ng’endo Mukii (Yellow Fever) is one of the candidates that was specially selected for this year’s Talent Campus.

The Kenyan films showing at the festival are:

Something Necessary (feature film)



Director: Judy Kibinge
Language: Swahili with English subtitles
Run Time: 85min
Germany, Kenya, 2013

Directed by Kenyan filmmaker Judy Kibinge and produced by German filmmaker Tom Tykwer, Something Necessary is the latest film from One Fine Day Films. The film chronicles an intimate moment in the lives of two people from very different sides of history. Anne is struggling to rebuild her life in the wake of the violence which swept through Kenya after the 2007 elections. Joseph, a troubled gang member who participated in the violence, is drawn to Anne, seemingly in search of redemption. Both of them need something that only the other can give in order to move beyond the painful memories of their pasts. For details of the screenings at DIFF, follow this link.

To learn more about the film, read Ciné Kenya‘s feature on it here.

Ni Sisi (feature film)



Director: Nick Reding
Language: Swahili with English subtitles
Run Time: 92min
Kenya, 2013

It’s Us (Ni Sisi) portrays a typical Kenyan community consisting of a harmonious muddle of tribes, intermarriages, and extended families. Then one day rumours begin to spread, mistrust suddenly takes hold and people are identified as belonging to a different tribe. Caught in this ripple effect, old friends begin to turn on each other and in a matter of days, the bonds and alliances that are the foundation of the community are severed. Despite its joyous vibrancy, It›s Us is a film that deals with vitally important issues, both in Kenya, still recovering from the violence of 2008, and beyond. For details of the screenings at DIFF, follow this link.

To learn more about the film, read Ciné Kenya‘s feature on it here.

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Tabatô: A Returning Soldier and A Mysterious Suitcase.


13 min


Starring: Mutar Djebaté, Fatu Djebaté, Mamadu Baio

Director: João Viana

Language: Mandinka

This short film is showing at the 63rd Berlinale Festival.

After fighting in a colonial war, Mutar, an old man comes back to the village. He doesn’t speak to anyone. A shot is heard and right after that the old man falls down and we believe him dead.

He doesn’t speak, so the curious daughter Fatu,  wants to know what’s in his suitcase and opens it. Why is Mutar so terrified? What is he carrying in his suitcase? Even the wise women are unable to prevent her from opening the it. Shock turns into surprise but the drum beat goes on.

Tabatô is the name of the village in Guinea-Bissau.