JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng, July 23, 2013 (AFP) - A sex scene between a schoolteacher and a pupil has led to the opening movie at this year's Durban International Film Festival being banned, organisers said Tuesday.
The decision to block the showing of the South African film "Of Good Report", has been met with outrage.
Censors objected to a scene "which constitutes child pornography and we are unable to legally show the film," a spokesman quoted festival director Peter Machen as saying.
Out of respect for film director Jahmil Qubeka, organisers did not screen a replacement film at the festival, showing instead the censorship message of the Film and Publications Board.
The movie's plot revolves around a small-town school where a predatory teacher attracted to young girls targets a 16-year-old student, played by a 23-year-old actress.
"It presents a story of a very real and troubling social problem of rampant abuse of position in our country," said Machen.
Sex between older men and young girls is a major cause of HIV in South Africa, which has the world's largest population living with AIDS -- over five million.
South Africa's age of consent is 16 but the country's publication laws only allow the portrayal of sex from 18 years upwards.
The ban drew a wide response in a country mindful of the white-minority government's extreme moralism in banning art.
Some organisations cautioned filmmakers to refrain from portraying violence and abuse towards children while others called on authorities to be less moralistic in the application of the law.
Radio stations buzzed with analysts and commentators arguing for and against the decision.
Cartoonist Zapiro, meanwhile, slammed the censors as "mindless zombies".