Featured Image: Professor Cheryl Potgieter Photo: ukzn.ac.za
By BO Staff Writer
The Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) has been hit by a controversy over the white manager of the festival who tried to censor a film about the apartheid death penalty from screening at the festival’s opening night. Sarah Dawson has resigned in apparent protest against the showing of the award winning and hard hitting Shepherds and Butchers, a death-penalty drama set in the apartheid era.
The film was directed by the South African award winning director Oliver Schmitz. It’s about a young white guard who witnessed too many executions. This film comes at the time the apartheid state murder of mostly blacks has come into focus as a result of the memory of the young man, Solomon Mahlangu, but also the film would be relevant for the memory of the KwaZulu Natal born youth murdered by apartheid, Andrew Zondo. Dawson seems to be unable to stomach the apartheid violence despite the fact that the film has an age restriction of 16 years.
Sources say Dawson’s real reasons for resignation is the refusal to project the truth about apartheid. She would rather screen a film about Nkandla and the current black mismanagement of the state. The University of KwaZulu Natal’s executive director of corporate relations, Lesiba Seshoka is reported to have been baffled by Dawson’s reasons for her resignation. He told Citypress, “The Film and Publications Board has officially classified the film with a rating of 16V, making it suitable for viewers over the age of 16. In this light, it is unclear why Ms Sarah Dawson found the film to be inappropriate or unsuitable for the opening night of the film festival”.
After Dawson canned the film from being screened on the opening night, the producer Anant Singh engaged her and complained about censorship. But Dawson was not budging, it required the intervention of UKZN Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of College of Humanities, Professor Cheryl Potgieter, to stop the blatant censorship to protect apartheid. Potgieter has previously come under fire for her tough stance on issues of transformation, gender and racism.
Sheshoka explained the choice of the film thus; “The film was chosen because it seeks to educate; is a relevant reflection on South African history; and deals with the socially relevant and contested issue of the death penalty and its effects and consequences.”
It would seem Dawson’s supporters are hiding behind the old ruse of “autonomy” to perpetuate racism and protect apartheid crimes. It’s thanks to Professor Potgieter that the film shall now take it rightful place in the opening night.