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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November, 2003, 10:22 GMT
SA film lifts veil on gay sex
Gay men in South Africa
South Africa is one of the world's most liberal countries in terms of gay rights
A South African documentary has given a glimpse into the lives of five African men who have homosexual sex - for traditional, cultural and economic reasons.

The film, entitled Four Rent Boys And A Sangoma, looks at the many different reasons behind some South African men's decision to have sex with other men.

Produced and directed by film-maker Catherine Muller, it is an investigation into black male sexuality beyond the label of "gay or homosexual."

"These guys will have sex for mobile phones, food, cars and just to have a better way of life," Ms Muller told the BBC's Focus On Africa magazine.

"The phenomenon of the black township rent boys having sex for money is very new."


She said this is a sign that poverty has become the leading reason why these men would sleep with other men.

Of the four rent boys one, Keke, dresses like a woman and takes on the personality of an effeminate woman.

The film was made in Johannesburg
But the film also looks at the life of Fihlo, a Sangoma - a traditional healer - from Orange Farm, a township on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Filho says in the film that he receives sex from men as a spiritual exchange of energy.

"A man's semen gives me power," he reveals.

"If I am meant to sleep with men then that is my destiny."

Fihlo believes it is his duty as a traditional healer to have sex with men, and says the ancestors prefer him to be submissive like a woman by being penetrated.

Ms Muller said that the Sangoma points to the fact that there are deep precedents for the practice of men having sex with other men that have real and rich complex meanings in African culture.

She added that her work shows that the term "gay" does not cover the complexities of same-sex practices which have "always existed."

"That label is a westernised concept but a same-sex practice is across the board," she said.

The documentary was released as part of the fifth Encounters South African International Documentary Festival that will be shown in some parts of Europe.

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