South Africa: Queer South African Film “The Wound” Earns Praise Globally, But Threats At Home

Premiering at Sundance, John Trengove’s directorial debut, The Wound (Inxeba), is a brutal yet beautiful study in identity: Kwanda, a young gay South African, goes out into the wilderness to undergo Ulwaluko, a painful circumcision ritual and his rite of passage into the Xhosa tribe. But his desire to claim his manhood comes in conflict with the reality of his sexuality.

The film, which opened in the U.S. last week, has received wide critical acclaim—and comparisons to MoonlightVariety called it “sensitively nuanced” and “rich in… small, observational details” (It’s also earned a respectable 86% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

In South Africa, though, The Wound has faced protests from the Xhosa community, which claims it reveals too much about Ulwaluko.

“The movie made everything public—even the very sensitive and secret things,” Xhosa king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu told The Times. “It is insulting to the tradition because it stripped the tradition of its secrecy and sacredness. This will provoke the wrath of ancestors. Attacking and insulting this custom is an attack to our ancestors.”

Sigcawu and members of the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, or Contralesa, are calling for The Wound to be banned and have lodged complaints with the country’s Film and Publication Board. King Sigcawu wants to talk to The Wound’s producers “amicably” before approaching the courts.  

The Wound was inspired by Thando Mgqolozana’s novel A Man Who is Not a Man—and Trengove wrote the script with Mgqolozana and another Xhosa writer, Malusi Bengu. But in many people’s eyes it’s still an outsider sharing secrets that aren’t his to share. (Nelson Mandela detailed the ritual in Long Walk to Freedom and faced little criticism.) Read more via NewNowNext

Watch a trailer of The Wound, a South African film that aims to challenge narrow depictions of African masculinity. The film, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival (January 19 to 29) in Utah, USA, stars soul singer Nakhane Touré and actor Bongile Mantsai, winner of a 2011 Fleur Du Cap award for best supporting actor in the play Woyzeck.