A tall, leggy actress peels off her skirt and top to dance in what in some places would be an unremarkable movie scene — except that this is porn in South Africa made by blacks, for blacks.
The dialogue, as scant as the clothing, is spoken in Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho, in a film that producer Tau Morena, 30, describes as a “voyeuristic experience” designed to portray the “average guy and girl next door, having great sex.”
The movie, Mapona Volume 1 (Naked in Sotho) has caused a stir among conservatives in a country that under apartheid saw porn banned from open public sale, leading to a rampant under-the-counter market.
It has also grabbed people’s attention because unlike most locally produced DVD erotica the men are filmed putting on condoms before sex, and all actors underwent mandatory tests for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“We want to show using condoms can be fun and practical,” says Morena, who insists that if people “condomize” before sex then their health will benefit.
South Africa has 5.6 million people who are HIV-positive out of a 50-million population, according to UN estimates.
After years of denial the country has intensified its efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, increasing the provision of male condoms from 450 million in 2008 to more than 1.5 billion by next year.
The idea for Mapona started when subscribers, mostly black middle class, of an explicit adult Web site called Sondeza.com, meaning “closer” in Zulu, complained about the shortage of local porn.
Morena said the movie, which has sold more than 5,000 copies at prices ranging from 150 to 200 rand (US$21 to US$28) since it hit adult shop shelves six weeks ago, was meant to portray average black South Africans.
“There is no shortage of adult film, but most are imported,” Morena said. “Basically there is a shortage of niche black South African. We haven’t changed the formula, we just re-packaged it. It’s 100 percent black on black.”
Hundreds of aspiring porn stars turned out for open auditions to shoot the film in Johannesburg, where the only criteria was a “bubbly personality.”
South Africa’s few local adult productions are mostly in English or Afrikaans.
Patrick Meyer, general manager of JT Publishing, a company that distributes porn films, said the local industry was picking up: “This year there are about 10 movies locally produced on the market compared to about four in 2009.”
Religious leaders have denounced Mapona. Kenneth Meshoe, leader of the African Christian Democratic Party, said “porn exploits women” and he was disappointed that “black South Africans chose to do something which is foreign to Africa.”
Other critics have raised concerns about its impact on AIDS, citing a US porn star’s recent positive HIV test, which prompted a shut-down of California’s sex business.
Medical experts, however, seem encouraged by the use of condoms in the movie although one health academic suggested it was unlikely that people’s attitudes would change as a result of watching the film.
“I think the makers of Mapona have been very smart in promoting themselves as purveyors of a positive, safe sex message,” said Rebecca Hodes, deputy director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit at the University of Cape Town. “But is there evidence to support their claims that the use of condoms in porn promotes safer sex or encourages viewers to think twice about their risky sexual practices? I doubt it.”