Censorship in South Africa
Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the government or media organizations as determined by a censor.
Censorship in South Africa
In 1963 the Publications and Entertainment Bill was passed. This stipulated **. PUBLICATIONS AND ENTERTAINMENT ACT no. 26 (1963). Prior to 1963, censorship was exercised by Customs, which meant locally-produced works were not subject to any censorship. This Act - which stayed in operation up to the passing of the Publications Act of 1974 - founded the first censorship board in South Africa, consisting of nine members, of which six were in charge of art, language and literature, allowing also for domestic censorship of ‘undesirable’ works. Although a provision was made for an appeal to the Supreme Court, this option was seldom exercised in practice. In all, an average of about 70 films per year, and 7000 publications were banned in the decade in which this Act was in operation. (See Gosher, 1988) [JH] PUBLICATIONS APPEAL BOARD. Higher authority called into being by the Publications Act of 1974. This body handled appeals against bannings previously referred to the Supreme Court and sat in-camera with interested parties. (See Gosher, 1988) [JH] PUBLICATIONS ACT (1974). Supplanted the 1963 Publications and Entertainment Act. While retaining the strict provisions and criterion of ‘undesirability’, it closed some loopholes and replaced the right of appeal to the Supreme Court with an inhouse Publications Appeal Board. (See Gosher, 1988) [JH] See Smith, 1990, pp45-47.
All banned items were listed in the Government Gazette and a complete list of all publications and films, as per the regulations of the Customs Act no. 55 of 1955, in alphabetical order, together with authors, which were prohibited from being imported into the Republic of South Africa, were listed weekly in Jacobsen's Index of Objectionable Literature, published by Jacobsen's Publishers in Pretoria.
Censorship and theatre
Censored productions and plays
See banned musicals for blasphemy: Hair, Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar. Amendations to: Three Months Gone; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Censorship and Film
Under the apartheid regime, South Africa had one of the most exhaustive film censorship systems of any country in the Western world. About 1,300 films a year were studied, often frame by frame. Cuts for nudity, language and politics were the subjects of lengthy public appeals argued by batteries of lawyers.
Films depicting interracial couples were considered immoral and were banned and/or censored for content as were scenes depicting nudity among the European community by the ruling party - the James Bond films Live and Let Die and A View To A Kill had love scenes which were censored by the South African government. Some films, such as the obviously pornographic or "blue movies," were banned outright, but many were allowed to be screened only after being heavily cut.
Virtually all films about gangsters and organized crime were banned for black audiences.
Many South Africans would travel across the borders, for what were known as "dirty weekends", to countries such as Swaziland (now Eswatini), Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Bechuanaland (now Botswana) where they would be able to watch films (and buy books) that were banned in South Africa.
Many films were not submitted to the Publications Control Board because the local distributors realised that they would, in all probability, be banned. Apart from the few listed here, it is beyond the scope of this website and those films have not been listed.
The 1976 United Artists release, DRUM, directed by Steve Carver and starring Warren Oates, Pam Grier and Ken Norton, was a sequel to Mandigo but was not submitted to the Publications Control Board for release in South Africa.
Here is a list of banned movies, missing details are to follow:
In 1910 the first film to be banned in South Africa was The Johnson-Jeffries Fight. It was banned because the footage depicted the black boxer Jack Johnson defeating the white boxer James J. Jeffries. This film inspired race riots in the American South.
In 1939, Confessions of a Nazi Spy, a Warner Bros film directed by Anatole Litvak and based on real-life events about a Nazi spy ring uncovered in the United States, was banned in South Africa a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War. There were a considerable number of people of German extraction living in the country and the United Party (the ruling party), did not want to upset them. The film starred Edward G. Robinson, Francis Lederer, George Sanders, Paul Lukas, Lya Lys and Grace Stafford.
1963: Lillies of The Field. Sidney Poitier won an Oscar for his charismatic, funny performance in this warm-hearted film about a wandering handyman. Five German nuns wanting to build a chapel in the desert believe his arrival was the miracle they had been praying for. But the uplifting story of a handsome, articulate Black man battling and bonding with five stubborn women of faith did not impress the newly established SA Publications Control Board (PCB) led by an 80-year-old Professor Gerrit Dekker. The film was banned but unbanned in 1973.
1964: Zulu 1964. This spectacular action epic starring Michael Caine is about the battle of Rorke's Drift. The film was not allowed to be shown to "natives". White audiences were allowed to watch it.
1965: A Patch Of Blue. Sidney Poitier plays Gordon Ralfe, a quiet, well-educated black man who met a young blind illiterate white woman named Selina in a park and befriended her. Soon they were meeting every day and Gordon found out how she lost her sight as a child. She was still living with her abusive prostitute mother (played by Oscar-winning actress, Shelley Winters) and alcoholic grandfather. He also discovered she was raped by one of her mother's clients. Gordon located a school for the blind which was willing to take Selina in, but her mother had other sordid plans for the girl - who, by that time, was in love with Gordon. The Publications Control Board banned this touching, but never sentimental, film - which received multiple Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and was a box office hit in America.
1965: The Pawnbroker was a critically lauded film about a haunted concentration camp survivor (played by Oscar-nominated Rod Steiger) was banned because the PCB deems that “it is offensive to see a “Bantu" female baring her breasts for a white man.
1966: The Battle of Algiers
1967: To Sir - With Love Many films with Black actors were banned outright, such as this 1967 British drama film starring Sidney Poitier. The movie deals with social and racial issues in an inner-city school.
1967: Helga – Vom Werden des menschlichen Lebens also referred to simply as Helga, is a West German sex education documentary and the first film of the Helga trilogy, starring Ruth Gassmann as Helga. Its release in West Germany was followed by international releases in many countries but in South Africa, it could only be shown to segregated audiences. Men and women were not allowed to watch it together.
1967: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a 1967 American romantic comedy-drama film produced and directed by Stanley Kramer and written by William Rose. Starring Spencer Tracy (in his final role), Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn. It depicted interracial marriage in a positive light, which did not impress the South African censors.
1967: Belle De Jour. A frigid, virtuous young woman (played by the gorgeous Catherine Deneuve) married to a handsome surgeon disappears into her own fantasies and spends her afternoons secretly working as a prostitute at a Paris brothel. This fascinating, erotic and darkly amusing tale was directed by Luis Buñuel, the master of cinematic surrealism.
1968: The Diary of an Innocent Boy (aka Benjamin). Lusty Gallic libertine period romp tells the tale of an 18th-century orphan (Pierre Clémenti) who is taken in by his wealthy, beautiful Countess Aunt (Michèle Morgan). The Countess teaches him about life and sex and many comely young servant girls throw themselves at the young man, but it takes him forever to lose his virginity. Catherine Deneuve and Michel Piccoli co-star in a film which was sometimes compared to Tom Jones, but featured far more nudity.
1968: Bonnie and Clyde,
1968: The Graduate,
1968: Blow Up,
1968: In The Heat Of The Night,
1968: Finian's Rainbow. Of all the films to fall foul of the South African censors, this delightful, Francis Ford Coppola-directed Warner Bothers musical fantasy aimed at family audiences and starring twinkle-toed screen legend Fred Astaire and the lovely Petula Clark seems the most unlikely. But the movie features a bigoted, greedy white Senator (Keenan Wynn) who - with the help of a leprechaun's magical crock of gold, is turned into a black man so he can be forced to experience life from another perspective. After turning black, the senator is chased into the forest by his dog - who has been taught to attack black people, but when he is finally turned back into a white man he has seen the light and is no longer a cruel, uncaring racist. The film - which was based on a successful stage show, was eventually unbanned in the mid-seventies.
1968: The Killing of Sister George. June Buckridge (Beryl Reid), an ageing, alcoholic British actress falls apart when she learns the character she plays in a long-running BBC soap opera is about to be killed off. Angry and in despair, The foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking June gets drunk and molests two novice nuns in the back seat of a taxi. She soon discovers the boss (Coral Browne) who fired her is also a closeted lesbian and has designs on the old actress's sexy, childish young girlfriend (Susannah York). The movie was based on an acclaimed British stage play but Hollywood director Robert Aldrich added a sex scene and nudity to the film version. Dated now, this was very daring for its day.
1968: Witchfinder General.
1969: Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. Slick, a glossy comedy about a sophisticated couple - played by Natalie Wood and Robert Culp, who try to persuade their more staid friends (Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon) to partake in wife swapping. They eventually fail to persuade them, but this didn't stop the PCB from banning the film for many years.
1969: The Lady of Monza (aka Nun of Monza), an Italian film about a 17th Century nun (Anne Heywood) who is accused of committing carnal sins and planning a murder, it became the first of many "nunsploitation" movies to be banned by the PCB.
1969: Easy Rider. A labour of love from Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper with an unforgettable star-making supporting performance by Jack Nicholson, it was easily the most authentic, most heartbreaking film about the sixties counterculture and it had an extraordinary soundtracK including great rock songs by The Jimi Experience, The Byrds, The Band and Steppenwolf. But the cocaine deal at the beginning, the scenes depicting marijuana use, brief nude sequences and the famous acid trip in the graveyard ensured that the PCB banned it. Much talked about around the world, and a huge box office success at the time of its release, Easy Rider was unbanned 13 years later.
1969: Fellini Satyricon
1970: The Great White Hope,
1970: The Landlord. A charming social satire, it stars Beau Bridges as a wealthy young white man from Long Island who buys an apartment building in a black Brooklyn ghetto with the intention of turfing out the residents and turning the apartments into bachelor pads. But then he meets the tenants, and starts an affair with Fanny (Diana Sands) who is married to Copee (Louis Gossett Jr.), and, well, his attitude starts to change. A rare realistic and sometimes uncomfortable film about race relationships in America at the end of the sixties, The Landlord has never been officially screened in South Africa since it was banned.
1970: Tick, Tick, Tick.
1970: The Boys in the Band. 1970. Both heartbreaking and hilarious, this searing screen adaptation of Matt Crowley's off-broadway play is about a party a group of bitchy, self-loathing gay men hold in a tiny Manhattan apartment. A heterosexual man turns up by accident, the liquor begins to flow, the host suggests they play "The Truth Game" and the night ignites as all sorts of secrets come out. This remains an uncomfortable film to watch, but it is a powerful portrait of the time in which it was made, and the frank dialogue - which includes a notorious four-letter word starting with c, still sizzles. The PCB unbanned the film in the mid-seventies, and it was remade for Netflix in 2020.
1970: Carry on Up the Jungle.
1970: Bloody Mama. Famed low-budget filmmaker Roger Corman directed this rip-roaring, 1930s-set gangster yarn starring Shelly Winters as the notorious Tommy gun-wielding, psychopathic bank robber and gangster Ma Barker. The film features graphic violence, nudity, a brutal rape, drug taking and a scene where Bruce Dern's character uses a live piglet as alligator bait. Robert De Niro plays one of Ma Barker's despicable sons.
1970: The Liberation of L.B. Jones. The final feature film of the great Hollywood director William Wyler - who directed classics like Ben Hur (1958), Friendly Persuasion (1956), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Funny Girl, Mrs Miniver (1942) and Wuthering Heights (1939) during his glittering career, it was based on an eye-opening novel by Jesse Hill Ford which told a bleak, searing story of a wealthy black undertaker looking for justice in America's notoriously racist deep South. The script was co-written by Ford and Sterling Silliphant, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of In the Heat of the Night - the success of which had propelled Sidney Poitier to superstardom.
1970: Soldier Blue is the blood-soaked recreation of the US cavalry massacre of defenceless Cheyenne Indians at Sand Creek in 1864 and an obvious allegory for the Vietnam War. The film shows women and children being ruthlessly slaughtered and features a beheading and a graphic rape scene in which an Indian squaw has her breasts carved off with a knife by the cavalrymen. Peter Strauss (Rich Man, Poor Man) and Candice Bergen play the only two sympathetic white characters in the film - he a deserter and she a woman who fell in love with the Indian chief (Jorge Rivero) who captured her. The pair are tied to a wagon by the soldiers, and it is through their horrified eyes we watch the slaughter of the Indians unfold. A controversial revisionist western, it was a big box office success overseas, but the PCB immediately banned it. Four years later, the Board quietly allowed a heavily censored version entitled Arrow in the Sun to be shown in South Africa. Despite the heavy cuts it was only allowed to be screened to audiences over the age of 16.
1971: Carnal Knowledge. This icy, sophisticated and sharply written dark comedy, with its groundbreakingly frank sexual dialogue, follows the sex lives of two college buddies (played by Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel) from the mid-1940s through to the early 70s. They are portrayed as awful, privileged men who seem to know nothing about love. Candice Bergen, Ann-Margret, Cynthia O'Neal and Carol Kane play the long-suffering women in their lives, while Rita Moreno plays a prostitute. A deeply cynical adult film, its screening caused a stir in America's conservative heartland and after the police seized the movie a cinema manager in Georgia was convicted of the crime of *"distributing obscene material". So it is not surprising the PCB banned it in South Africa. * The US Supreme court overturned the manager's conviction in 1974 and the film was re-released under the tagline "The United States Supreme Court has ruled that 'Carnal Knowledge' is not obscene. See it now!" South Africans, however, had to wait nearly 20 years before the film was unbanned and released on video.
1971: The Devils,
1971: Taking Off. Cannes Film Festival award-winning comedy from master director Milos Forman was probably banned because of a scene where a group of parents, whose children have run away from home, experiment with marijuana in an attempt to understand what their missing kids see in it.
1971: A Clockwork Orange, a 1971 film adapted, produced, and directed by director Stanley Kubrick and based on Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name. It was considered to be one of the most violent films ever made. It fell foul of the country's censors and was banned for 13 years.
1971: Joe Bullit, Produced in 1971 and released in 1973 in the Eyethu cinema in Soweto, it was banned by the Apartheid government after only two screenings. It was one of the first local films to feature an all-African cast starring Ken Gampu and Abigail Kubeka. It is about a local soccer team that fell prey to a mysterious gangster. It was later unbanned by the Minister of Communication but never re-released.
1971: Billy Jack,
1971: Soldier Blue,
1971: The Dunwich Horror. The grandson (Dean Stockwell) of a dead warlock, wanting to open a gateway to earth for demons from hell, seduces and drugs a young woman (Sandra Dee) whom he needs to sacrifice on an altar in order to achieve his diabolical goals. Based on a short story by H.P. Lovecraft.
1972: Three Bullets For A Long Gun (local spaghetti western starring Beau Brummel).
1972: The Last House on the Left. Wes Craven (Nightmare on Elm Street) directed this raw, disturbing, but intense and gripping low-budget exploitation film about two teenage girls from the suburbs who wander off the beaten track to buy marijuana while en route to a rock concert and - in a truly chilling scene - end up being raped and murdered by a group of escaped convicts. In a strange twist of fate, the killers' car later breaks down and they are given shelter by one of the dead girl's parents. When they discover who the men are, all hell breaks loose. Craven ignored the cuts ordered by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and surreptitiously released the film uncut. It caused a sensation at the time and has remained a cult favourite to this day, but it has never been officially released in South Africa.
1972: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask. Based on the satirical book of the same name, it was adapted for the screen by Woody Allen, who also directed it, and co-starred with Gene Wilder.
1973: The Exorcist is an American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin and written for the screen by William Peter Blatty, based on his 1971 novel of the same name. The film stars Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran (in his final film role), Jason Miller and Linda Blair. The film was submitted to the PCB in 1974 and then banned.
1973. Blume in Love.
1973: The Wicker Man,
1973: The Big Boss (Bruce Lee),
1973: Shaft In Africa,
1974: The Klansman. A clearly drunk Richard Burton - wielding an atrociously bad southern accent, starred opposite Lee Marvin and a young O.J. Simpson in a lurid, violent story set in a small southern town populated mostly by poor black folk and seething white racists. The local chapter of the KKK is outraged when a young white woman (Linda Evans) is raped, so they frame the "uppity" black man Garth (O.J.Simpson) for the crime. But after being taken into custody Garth escapes, arms himself with an M-16 and starts targeting white people.
1974: Lenny. Bob Fosse - the award-winning director of All That Jazz and Cabaret, helmed this bleak black and white film in which an Oscar-nominated Dustin Hoffman plays the groundbreaking American stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce. The self-destructive, heroin-addicted Bruce was both loved and hated for his controversial stage routines - which some US courts labelled obscene, and he spent the last few years of his short, grim life battling against censorship and portraying himself as a martyr for the cause of free speech.
1974: Soldier Blue,
1974: Enter the Dragon,
1974: Blazing Saddles. Arguably one of the funniest films ever made, Mel Brooks' western spoof is mostly remembered for the famous campfire scene of the cowboys explosively passing wind after eating large plates of baked beans. The film is so full of racial epithets that these days it comes with a trigger warning when it is shown on streaming platforms, but what almost certainly got it banned by the PCB was the fact corrupt attorney general Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) appoints a black man (Cleavon Little) as the sheriff of Rock Ridge in order to offend the residents and cause mayhem. The new sheriff - assisted by drunken gunslinger The Waco Kid (Gene Wilder), wins over the townspeople, but Lamarr brings in the KKK, the Nazis, the Methodists and a group of bikers to fight them.
1974: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Inspired (very loosely) by the story of rural Texas serial killer Ed Gein, this chilling, well crafted low budget film is about a group of young travellers who land up in a crumbling, seemingly deserted farmhouse, which turns out to be inhabited by a family of cannibals. The most fiendish and ferocious of the cannibals is a hulking half-wit named Leatherface - because he wears a face mask made from human skin, and wields a chainsaw in the film's tense, terrifying final sequence. It was the stuff of nightmares. Not surprising it was banned.
1974: Carry on Dick. Perhaps it was a case of one double entendre too many, but the board banned this bawdy Carry On period comedy about the infamous highwayman "Big" Dick Turpin (smugly played - with a lecherous look in his eyes - by Sid James). It was later pulled from SABCTV's Saturday night schedule after a journalist pointed out it was banned.
1974: Beyond the Door (aka Devil Within Her). An Italian ripoff of The Exorcist - with a side order of Rosemary's Baby, starring British actress Juliet Mills. It was a box-office success and while Warner Brothers tried to sue the makers for stealing parts of The Exorcist, the lawsuit failed.
1975: The Wilby Conspiracy. After ten years on Robben Island black political activist Shack Twala (Sidney Poitier) is released from prison on a legal technicality. He is taken away from the Supreme Court by his Afrikaans lawyer Rina (Prunella Gee) and her lover, Jim (a British engineer played by Michael Caine), but when the police try to arrest Shack for not having his papers, Jim intervenes, knocking the arresting constable unconscious. Forced to flee, the trio set off for Cape Town to collect a packet of diamonds before leaving the country. Unfortunately, the racist, calculating Bureau of State Security (BOSS) cop Major Horn (Nicol Williamson) is in hot pursuit. Directed by Ralph Nelson (Soldier Blue, Lilies of the Field), this suspenseful British production was shot in Kenya.
1975. Lisztomania. Ken Russell's surreal, over-the-top musical comedy biopic of Franz Liszt starred British rock Roger Daltry - who, in the same year, played the title role in Russell's far more successful Tommy. It is widely regarded as the flamboyant, colourful British director's worst film.
1975: Seven Beauties,
1975: The Whispering Death,
1975: Mandingo, a 1975 Paramount Pictures film, the screenplay of which was by Norman Wexler who adapted it from the 1957 novel, Mandingo, by Kyle Onstott. It is a historical melodrama about the relationship between White masters and Black slaves in the United States. Directed by Dino De Laurentiis, it starred Ken Norton, Perry King, James Mason, Brenda Sykes and Susan George.
1975: The film version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical comedy horror film by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lou Adler and Michael White and directed by Jim Sharman. The film was shot in the United Kingdom and starred Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick. The apartheid censors were shocked to ban it.
1975: Race with the Devil. Two couples in a campervan packed their motorbikes and headed off into the desert for a weekend of relaxation and off-road riding. They inadvertently witnessed a group of Satanists making a human sacrifice. Unfortunately, they were spotted and the chase was on. With "Devil" in the title and Satanists in the film, this energetic and original B-movie starring Peter Fonda and Warren Oates was always going to be a hard sell to the PCB. The fact that, in downbeat seventies style, the good guys lost the chase and perished in the film's shock ending was, also, no doubt, a contributing factor in the Board's decision to ban it.
1975: The Devil's Rain,
1975: The Trial of Billy Jack,
1975: Die Square (local)
1976: 1900. The distributor of the 5 hours 17-minute long version of Bernardo Bertolucci's politically-charged, sexually explicit historical epic set in Italy at the beginning of the 20th Century was given permission to screen it once at a handful of small urban upmarket cinemas around the country - including the Elizabeth Cines in Port Elizabeth - before it was totally banned. It starred Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu and Donald Sutherland and reemerged here many years later on video in a confusing, heavily edited three-hour version. Bertolucci went on to direct Last Tango in Paris.
1976: To the Devil a Daughter. Based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley, this Hammer horror film finds an American occult author (Richard Widmark) battling an excommunicated priest (Christopher Lee) who heads up a satanist group hellbent on killing a young nun (Nastassja Kinski) and using her body for diabolical ends.
1976: Whispering Death (a.k.a. Albino, and The Night of the Askari). Terrick (James Faulkner), a British colonial policeman in what was then known as Rhodesia goes after the vicious, sadistic Albino terrorist (played, under mounds of makeup, by German actor Horst Frank) who raped and killed his fiancée (Sybil Danning). An unpleasant film also starring Christopher Lee and Trevor Howard, this South African German co-production has a downbeat ending and features full frontal nudity during the savage rape scene.
1977: The Search for Sandra Laing, directed by Anthony Thomas. The film tells the true story of a young girl who was classified as "coloured" by the apartheid government, though both her parents were "white", and the effects this had on their family and their community. (Labs started using DNA to establish paternity in questioned cases in the 1980s.)
1977: Looking For Mr Goodbar.
1977: Messenger of God.
1978: Up in Smoke, (also referred to as Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke) is an American comedy film directed by Lou Adler which glorified the use of marijuana and which upset the FBP.
1978: Pretty Baby, directed by Louis Malle, is a film which caused significant controversy due to its depiction of child prostitution and the nude scenes of Brooke Shields, who was 12 years old at the time of filming. Fearing a moral panic, apartheid censors moved to block the release of the film.
1978: Last Tango In Paris, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando. This controversial film was banned because of the full-frontal nudity and a scene in which Paul, Marlon's character, rapes Schneider’s character, Jeanne, using a stick of butter as a lubricant. Schneider was not told about the scene before it was shot.
1978: I Spit On Your Grave. After being gang raped (in a horrific 25-minute sequence) by a group of rural louts and left for dead, writer Jennifer Hills recovers from her injuries and asks God to forgive her for what she is about to do. She then goes on a revenge spree which only ends when she has killed her rapists and castrated their leader. This graphically violent, low-budget, exploitation film, from Israeli director Meir Zarchi - which noted critic Roger Ebert called "a vile bag of garbage" - is unpleasant to watch, but there is something to be said for seeing a strong female survivor take bloody revenge on her abusers and the film made a small fortune on the international grindhouse circuit. Camille Keaton, who played Jennifer Hills and later married Zarchi, has always defended the movie, saying "the film was inspired by true events after Meir Zarchi rescued a woman who'd been raped, so I don't think it's exploitative, it's empowering to women". There are feminists who now share her opinion, but the film remains controversial.
1978: The Stud. A 45-year-old Joan Collins stripped off on screen for the first time in this raunchy adaptation of a book by her sister, Jackie Collins. Joan plays Fontaine, the nymphomaniac trophy wife of a wealthy Middle Eastern businessman. She buys a London disco and expects the handsome manager Tony (Oliver Tobas as the titular Stud) to service her daily and nightly. But Tony grows bored of his demanding boss and takes a fancy to Fontaine's virginal stepdaughter. The PCB immediately banned the film, but it was so successful in Europe and the USA it revived Collins' fading career and spawned an equally tawdry sequel called The Bitch.
1979: Hair, an American musical anti-war comedy-drama film directed by Miloš Forman. Storyline: Claude Bukowski leaves the family ranch in Oklahoma for New York City where he is rapidly embraced into the hippie group of youngsters led by Berger, yet he had already been drafted. He soon falls in love with Sheila Franklin, a rich girl but still a rebel inside. The movie was banned probably because of the depiction of racial mingling, use of drugs, care less about societal values, and "immorality". Starring John Savage, Treat Williams, Beverly D'Angelo, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright, Don Dacus, Cheryl Barnes, Melba Moore and Ronnie Dyson. The record was also banned.
1979: Monty Python's Life of Brian, Directed by Terry Jones. The film tells the story of Brian Cohen (played by Chapman), a young Jewish-Roman man who is born on the same day as — and next door to — Jesus. He is subsequently mistaken for the Messiah. Banned under the apartheid regime because of blasphemous content.
1979: A Game For Vultures was banned by the censor board, who deemed it "a threat to state security".
1980: Cruising, Directed by William Friedkin. This film is about a serial killer who targets gay people.
1980: Cannibal Holocaust, a horror film produced as part of the contemporary cannibal trend of Italian exploitation cinema, was also never submitted to the Publications Control Board. The script was written by Gianfranco Clerici and directed by Ruggero Deodato. The story is about an anthropologist from New York University who leads a rescue team into the Amazon rainforest to locate a crew of filmmakers who went to photograph a tribe of cannibals but all of whom subsequently went missing. Only some film canisters were found. Starring Robert Kerman, Luca Barbareschi, Francesca Ciardi, Carl Gabriel Yorke, and Perry Pirkanen. Cannibal Holocaust was inspired by Italian media coverage of Red Brigades' terrorism.
1980: Friday The 13th. In the wake of the numerous sequels and imitations which have followed the box office success of this gory horror film, it is easy to forget how controversial a slasher movie it was in its day. A group of counsellors are preparing to reopen the picturesque Camp Crystal Lake - where a young boy drowned in mysterious circumstances 23 years ago. Soon after their arrival - seemingly every time two of them slip off to have sex or smoke a joint, the counsellors are stalked and murdered, one by one. The critics hated it but audiences who love to scream in terror flocked to see it and the film set a genre template for low-budget eighties horror flicks. A young Kevin Bacon played one of the killer's victims.
1980: Dressed To Kill.
1981: The Grass is Singing,
1981: The Howling. Although the PCB passed the gory, Oscar-winning horror-comedy An American Werewolf in London for general viewing - with a hefty age restriction and cuts, they banned director Joe Dante's very similar, but far lower budgeted, werewolf film. Both films contained graphically bloody scenes in which humans transformed into lycanthropes and smatterings of nudity, but there was nothing in The Howling that wasn't in An American Werewolf in London. Rather than highlighting a lack of consistency, this strange decision pointed to the fact the Board was more reluctant to ban well-known, critically acclaimed films than smaller, less high-profile films. It would be fair to mention that The Howling was a pretty good movie in its own right and was voted Best Horror Film of 1981 by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA.
1981: Porky's. 1981. Before American Pie there was Porky's, a crude, lewd Canadian teen comedy set in the 1950s. The surprise box office hit of the decade, it features a randy bunch of high school boys desperate to lose their virginity, a peephole in the girl's shower, a large, butch, lesbian gym teacher named Miss Balbricker (aka Beulah the Ballbreaker), full frontal male and female nudity and an attractive young teacher who howls like a dog during sex (played by future Sex and the City star Kim Cattral). Audiences found it hilarious, but the PCB did not.
1981: The Evil Dead. Filmmaker Sam Raimi's ultra gory low-budget horror hit tells the scary story of five young adults who spend a night in an isolated cabin in the woods. They discover an ancient book with words written in blood and pages made from human skin. It is the Book of the Dead, and when the campers read it they unwittingly unleash flesh-eating demons and the screen runs red. The film was so successful it spawned two sequels and a remake. Raimi went on to direct Spider-Man (2002).
1983: Under Fire, because it "might sow the seeds of revolution in South Africa”.
1987: Cry Freedom, a 1987 biography about Steve Biko starring Kevin Kline, Penelope Wilton and Denzel Washington. Directed by Richard Attenborough. This never passed the apartheid censors. Ster-Kinekor released the movie and it was subsequently banned. The police arrived at night whilst the movie was showing and insisted on shutting it down. They then confiscated the movie. Only hours after Cry Freedom won its approval from the government censors and made its South African premiere, the authorities banned it as a threat to public safety. They seized the film reels from at least 30 theatres nationwide.
1987: Prince of Darkness.
1988: Mapantsula, a South African made crime film directed by Oliver Schmitz and written by Schmitz and Thomas Mogotlane. It is the story of Johannes 'Panic' Themba Mzolo (Mogotlane), a small-time thief, and is set against the backdrop of Apartheid. Its release was prohibited.
1988: Biko: the Spirit Lives, by Terrence Francis. The film describes Steve Biko’s leadership of the Black Consciousness Movement and the events leading up to his death.
1988: The Cry of Reason: Beyers Naudé — an Afrikaner Speaks Out Released in 1988, the film is about one man’s journey from supporting apartheid, to his active opposition to it. Directed by Robert Bilheimer.
1988: A World Apart,
1988: The Stick (local),
1988: Shot Down (local).
1989: A Dry White Season,
1989: The Shadowed Mind (local),
1989: The Last Temptation of Christ,
1991: Songololo: Voices of Change is a film by Marianne Kaplan and Cari Green which focuses on Gcina Mhlope and Mzwakhe Mbuli and the ways in which culture and artistic performance contributed to their struggle against apartheid.
1992: The Long Journey of Clement Zulu documents the reintegration into society and the old lives of Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, James Mange, and Clement Zulu after their release from Robben Island in 1991. Directed by Liz Fish.
1993. Dirty Weekend. After bashing in an abusive man's head with a hammer, the long-suffering Bella (Lia Williams) feels empowered and buys a gun on the black market. Clad in a skin-tight red dress, armed and ready for more righteous vengeance she goes after a group of thugs who are terrorizing a homeless woman and a serial killer. A sordid, savagely violent, female variation on Death Wish with a side of crude black comedy, this is controversial British director Michael Winner's most unpleasant film and it became one of the last movies to be banned by the PCB.
1994: The Comrade King a film by Ben Horowitz. It is about King Sabata Dalindyebo’s life and his reburial by the Thembu nation.
1995: Kids is an American coming-of-age drama film directed by Larry Clark and written by Harmony Korine. The first banned film in the democratic era came from Hollywood. Kids tell the story of an unruly group of young teenagers who indulge in casual sex, violence and drugs – it was banned between 1995 – 1997.
In 1996 The Film and Publication Board, or FPB, was established under the Film and Publications Act. This board was created as a content classification and regulation authority, operating under the Minister of Communications and they often ordered certain cuts to be made before the film was shown. The FPB's purpose was ostensibly to tackle issues of child pornography and child abuse, as well as to provide ratings to publicly consumed media such as movies, music and television programs. Under these directives, its mandate could be considered one of state censorship.
2013: Of Good Report, a South African romantic thriller film, was banned by the National Film and Video Foundation for containing scenes of "child pornography". The plot is about a 16-year-old-girl who has sex with a teacher. It was deemed to be ‘too graphic’. This decision was later overturned after an appeal by the producers of the film. The film was directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka and starred Mothusi Magano as Parker Sithole, Petronella Tshuma as Nolitha Ngubane, Tshamano Sebe as Vuyani, Lee-Ann Van Rooi as Constable Arendse, Tina Jaxa as the Headmistress, Thobi Mkhwanazi as Squeeza, Nomhle Nkonyeni as the Landlady, Lihlebo Magugu as Sipho, Frances Ndlazilwana as the Grandmother and Mary Twala as Esther Sithole.
2017: Inxeba…, also known as The Wound. (Not to be confused with the 1978 Ted Hughes radio-play also called The Wound) This Xhosa language film directed by John Trengove and co-written by Malusi Bengu and Thando Mgqolozana is about a group of young men who travel to the Eastern Cape countryside for their traditional initiation. It deals with same-sex relations and was briefly classified by the FBP as an X18, up from its initial rating of 16LS. The X-rating meant that the movie could no longer be screened in local cinemas before the ban was overturned in court.
The "Banned Film Circuit"
When The Film and Publication Board took it upon themselves to decide what was good or bad for the morals of the South African population, they deprived the country's citizens the right to make their own decisions regarding when and what they wanted to see.
During the late 1960s, film rental stores started opening up in major centres. Groups of people would get together, hire 16mm films and film projectors and club together to pay the rental costs. This was a great way for them to see those movies which they had missed on their initial release. It was also a great way to reach people in rural communities without "bioscopes" to show films in small groups. These were usually rolled onto three of four spools and were projected either onto a screen or a white wall. Business boomed for the film-hire stores and many banned movies were consequently smuggled into the country. As much as the Government tried to prevent these films from entering the country, they were unable to stop them many were soon on the "banned film circuit".
In order to see these movies, you had to "know" someone in the industry who had access to copies of them. You had to have a personal introduction to join a group but once accepted, you were regularly informed about the viewings. Venues were set up and kept secret until the last moment. Then word would get out, you would go to the designated person's home and pay your share of the hiring costs. The screenings were usually held at night. There, two projectors were set up, one with a "legal" film, the other with the first reel of the "banned" movie.
The first reel would be run for a few minutes, then stopped and the second projector with the banned movie would start. This was done in case the police found out about the viewing and were preparing to "raid" the screening. This system would give enough time to switch off the projector and remove the banned film and to switch on the "legal" film. Assuming there was no raid, you watched the first reel of the "banned" movie until it was finished. Then a "runner" would take the reel to another venue, where a similar scenario was underway, and the first group would wait for the second reel. The screening would carry on in this manner until the complete movie had been shown. The vast majority of these viewings were seen without the police even being aware of the screenings. It was rumoured that if the police managed to confiscate a banned movie, they would later have their own private viewings.
Members of the Medical Reaction Forces used to illegally watch blue movies. If the Military Police (MPs) raided, the movie was paused and the doctor would get up and lecture about the sexual organs of the body. As the doctors were also officers, the MPs would not confiscate these videos but other troops had their movies confiscated if caught.
Sometimes pornographic, or "blue" movies, were shown as well, the best-known being Debbie Does Dallas and Behind the Green Door.
The New York Times, January 1, 1940.
Information supplied by Grant Aubin, retired film critic for the Eastern Province Herald.
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