The censors have just cut Fifty Shades of Grey, just as they cut Another Nine and a Half Weeks, hence the new local titles,”Thirty Shades of Grey” and “Another Seven and Half Weeks.”
“There are scenes in the film that are just too indecent to be shown to the public,” Isaac Chiranganyika, the board’s secretary, explained of the Fifty Shades of Grey omissions.
The expurgated version could be shown in Zimbabwe but one movie theatre refused to screen it, saying heavy censorship would “compromise the integrity of the film, and diminish into being another soft porn production despite its world popularity.”
About a year ago journalist Gillian Gotora took a look at the censorship board and this is what she found. Nothing much, it seems, has changed…
By GILLIAN GOTORA
The chief arbiter of what Zimbabweans can or cannot watch or read, Heyi Malaba, is 93 years old.
Born a decade before Hollywood icon Shirley Temple, who died at the age of 83 on Feb. 10, 2014, Malaba heads the state censorship board that bans movies, books and magazine it deems unsuitable for public consumption.
Banned outright recently : Leonardo DiCapriio in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” prohibited for its content of violence, sex, nudity, profane language and drug use.
Red flagged too are countless hard core pornographic movies seized by police along with raunchy cartoons, sex toys and one blow-up female doll lying still inflated in a corner of Malaba’s Harare office.
The board also pronounced an animated cartoon, The Nut Job, not suitable for children under 12 because of one canine scene where a dog wriggles its body in a sexually suggestive manner.
It could “send the wrong message to the young kids,” Malaba said.
Malaba, who insists he is still alert to the world of movies despite his age, said his job is to “preserve the morality of the nation” that he believes is under threat from Western lifestyles depicted in Hollywood and foreign films, books and magazines.
“We need to exercise some control on what should be viewed by the nation,” he said.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Malaba and colleagues in the seven-member Entertainment and Censorship Control Board, average age over 60, meet at a local cinema to view movies slated to be shown in that particular month. With notebooks and pens at the ready, they sit in a single row in the auditorium to pass their verdict.
They had “The Wolf of Wall Street” stopped before it was halfway through, theater manager Archibald Gotora, said.
They had seen enough to ban it.
“They said there was too much violence, nudity and sex and didn’t finish watching the movie,” Gotora said.
Malaba and his fellow board members, all over the age of 60, had also noted no one got arrested for drug use in the film, he said
“They want to see the police arresting people using drugs in the films. If nothing is done to them, the movie is often banned,” said Gotora.
Films depicting gay and lesbian scenes are automatically prohibited. Homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe.
“All the films that are shown in this country have to be okayed by us,” Malaba said.
Appealing a ban on a film costs $500 and and most distributors don’t bother because of the board’s reputation for strictness.
Music isn’t spared either. The lyrics must to be clean and straightforward, carrying no innuendos or political insults.
Zimbabweans, including couples within their own matrimonial homes, are not allowed to view or possess any images of an explicit sexual nature. Those found in possession of pornographic material, generally during police searches on suspicion of other crimes, face a maximum penalty of a hefty fine or up to two years in jail.
Despite Malaba’s vigilance many Zimbabweans end up watching banned movies on pirated DVDs in their homes.
Sales of pirated movie DVDs are a brisk business in the cities where they are sold for a $1 on the streets and flea markets. ( Pirated copies of The Wolf of Wall Street were sold on the streets four days after the film was banned.)
Many sellers get raided by the police and their wares end up in Malaba’s office.
In one month alone, he said he watched at least 86 hardcore porn movies the police had brought from the streets.
On being asked about how he felt at his age after watching so much porn, Malaba said: “It’s sickening, but I carry out my job to the best of my ability.”
Malaba said his decisions are mostly guided by the extent of violence, obscenity and drug use in the films.
“I abhor violence, the stabbing with the knives and the chopping with the axes,” he said.
Malaba, who joined the board of censors in 1993, has watched thousands of porn movies, often having to give up watching before the end.
“Most of the sex films I watch are filthy and sickening,” he said.
Hours of watching pornographic movies can take its toll, Malaba said, and despite how “sickening” it gets he has to be a “morality gatekeeper.”
“If you want to destroy your soul, you can do so alone in the privacy of your home but once they are more than two people involved you are committing a crime,” he said. “We are the gatekeepers of morality.”
Malaba’s censors are also on the lookout for sex toys, phallic or of other types, including the naked doll in his office.
“If a sex toy verges on obscenity then it is a crime,” Malaba said.