Durban Fest Cancels Screening of Michael Winterbottom's 'The Look of Love' Amid Second Controversy

Michael Winterbottom

After South Africa's Film and Publication Board refused to clear opening film "Of Good Report," citing child pornography concerns, organizers say they "were unable" to get a "Love" screener to the government agency "in time" for Sunday's planned showing.

LONDON – The 34th edition of South Africa's Durban International Film Festival on Sunday experienced its second screening controversy when Michael Winterbottom's The Look of Love wasn't shown as planned.

Organizers said the country's Film and Publication Board hadn't seen the film, because "we were unable to send a screener in time to the Film and Publication Board as per their request." That means the government agency couldn't classify the movie and clear it for the screening. "As the film has not been exempted from classification, we were unable to screen it," Durban organizers said.

The Look of Love stars Steve Coogan and Anna Friel and is a biopic about Paul Raymond, the controversial adult entertainment entrepreneur who became Britain's richest man.

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"We apologize for any inconvenience caused. Tickets can be refunded at the box office," organizers said.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the film would be shown at DIFF next Sunday, as a second screening is scheduled for that day, the event's closing day. Organizers said in their statement: "We will put a notice at the venue and on Facebook and on our website should we have to cancel the remaining screening next Sunday."

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On Thursday night, the opening night screening of the festival was also canceled as opening film Of Good Report, directed by Jahmil XT Qubeka, was refused clearance by the Film and Publication Board.

"According to their communication to the festival, the film contains a scene which constitutes child pornography, and we are unable to legally show the film. I am very sorry about this," said Durban festival manager Peter Machen. No alternative movie was screened "out of respect for the director of the film,” he said.

The Durban festival organizers on Sunday also apologized for other "screening problems that have been experienced at certain venues at this year’s festival." It didn't detail the issues, but said: "Most of these problems have been due to the fact that brand new digital technology has recently been introduced into the country, and there have been teething problems in some of the theaters."

Said Machen in a statement: "South Africa is the global test site for new digital projection technology at some of the screening venues, and operations have not been going as smoothly as anticipated. We are working around the clock with the venues and various expert technicians to resolve the issue. We understand some of the frustrations experienced by festival goers and ask them to bear with us. In the event that a film is canceled or takes too long to screen, audiences should obtain a refund from the relevant box office."

He also said on Sunday: "We sincerely hope that from today onwards there will be no additional problems."

Twitter: @georgszalai