Leon Schuster on Showmax pulling his films: We are too obsessed with colour

'I don’t see colour. I see South Africans'

23 June 2020 - 11:30 By Kyle Zeeman
Leon Schuster says he will continue to make movies.
Leon Schuster says he will continue to make movies.
Image: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Alon Skuy

Veteran actor and comedian Leon Schuster has defended his use of blackface in films amid a review by Showmax that has seen his content removed from the streaming service.

Showmax confirmed to TshisaLIVE this week that it had removed Leon's films from their catalogue while they review them for “racially insensitive material”.

“We removed Leon Schuster content as a precautionary measure, pending a review to ensure there is no racially insensitive material. That review is currently underway.

"This is part of a wider review of content on Showmax — it's something happening in parallel with reviews by streaming services worldwide,” said Showmax’s head of communications, Richard Boorman.

Sowetan reported on Tuesday that the SABC was considering a similar move.

Leon told TshisaLIVE he was upset by the decision, but would not fight it.

“You have to endure it. What can you do? They are the mkhulus of the industry and you can’t just kick out against them. I am not the type of person to take revenge. I have been doing the same thing with different storylines and candid camera for 35 years, and only now there is an issue.”

He said he was saddened by the news, which comes as he finally finished writing a script for Bones 3: Son of Bones. It will feature Alfred Ntombela and tell the story of a young boy overcoming challenges to prove himself a man. Leon said he fears this latest decision may mean the film will never see the light of day.

Showmax confirmed it does not engage with content creators or notify them when they add or remove content, something which frustrated the filmmaker.

"I wish these guys would have called me a year ago and told me this. I have worked my gat off over the last year to write this script and for two years prior to that. It saddens me. I have worked so long and it seems like it is all going down the drain.”

The decision sparked debate on social media, with some applauding the news and others claiming it was a “witch hunt”.

Leon said he has yet to receive any complaints from fans about wearing blackface, and would continue to create films with his characters until he is told not to.

“I make my movies for the people, and they like it. Why should I steer away from it, unless they tell me they want me to stop. They haven’t told me that. I will continue doing what I do, being careful, but I will continue.

“I am a bit heartbroken but I won’t lie down. I will keep making movies. We will find another team and we will come up with another script to shoot something different.”

He pointed to the Wayans brothers’ White Chicks and Eddie Murphy’s films, claiming they were not subjected to the same scrutiny and outrage as his films.

“Forget about colour. We are too obsessed with colour. I don’t think colour. I don’t think black springbok or white springbok, I think best springbok. I don’t think black and white, I think South African. To entertain people with films is the same as entertaining them with rugby.

“I bring in my characters, black, white, Chinese. I like doing it. I won’t stop doing it unless the police put me behind bars.”


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