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‘Inxeba’ (The Wound) film review

Scene from the movie The Wound
Scene from the movie The Wound

John Trengove's directorial debut ‘Inxeba’ (The Wound) is the most audacious and visually stunning – not forgetting vividly provocative – film to come to African cinema in recent memory.

Told entirely in isiXhosa, The Wound depicts the coming-of-age story of an unapologetic and fearless gay city boy (played by Niza Jay Ncoyini). We watch as he goes on a journey from boyhood to manhood while at initiation school in rural Eastern Cape and how he refuses to conform to the Xhosa culture's idea of masculinity.

The closeted gay affair, while in the mountains, between his mentor (Nakhane Toure) and fellow caregiver (Bongile Mantsai) somewhat threatens how his entire adulthood will be shaped.

The forbidden love story is the most daring, inclusive and non-traditional ever seen in local cinema.

It's beautifully spearheaded by the most prolific name in the cast, Nakhane Toure, making a memorable acting debut as timid and naive factory worker Xolani - a man so paralyzed by fear and held hostage by unrequited love that it feels like he forgot how to breathe.


Toure is supported by fresh-faced actor Niza Jay Ncoyini offering so much ingenuity and spunk as defiant Kwanda that he demands your undivided attention.

Married man Vija, played by the unflinching Bongile Mantsai is the quintessential macho man bringing an element of trouble to the table.

Not only does the narrative challenge and push boundaries on African muscularity, identity and sexuality, but it is carefully deliberated and researched in doing so. The film is slightly compromised in some parts that could have been understated instead of scaling up on the drama. But looking at it from Trengove's point of view, if you are going to upset people, you’d better commit and go all the way.

Hyper-masculinity has always been the backbone of African cinema and the film doesn't shy away from addressing it head-on, before completely shattering all those stereotypes about African masculinity.

Undoubtedly the film's most winning recipe is that it advances the way gay men are being portrayed on screen. The gay men here are complex and not given the caricature treatment where gay characters merely add colour to a story. Even the sex scenes are intense and graphic…think spit-in-hand raw.

Official Selection of Kaleidoscope LGBT Film Festival Sunday, August 13 @ 2:30 pm WINNER: GRAND JURY PRIZE (International Narrative), Outfest; BEST FIRST FEATURE, Frameline OFFICIAL SELECTION: Berlin International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, New Directors/New Films (NYC) In John Trengove’s thrilling debut, the openly gay South African singer Nakhane Touré gives a remarkable performance as Xolani, a youth leader in an annual circumcision rite. Between afternoon trysts with his closeted lover, Xolani promotes his culture’s conservative idea of manhood. But his complacency is shaken when a wealthy teenager dares to question the age-old ritual, pushing him to reject tradition and follow his heart. ~ Mark Thiedeman Tickets and more info: www.kal2017.com

We have seen a huge shift in gay cinema in recent years in international films like Call Me by Your Name and Moonlight; but Africa seemed to be trailing behind. Well, not anymore.

Further pushing the envelope, the film shines the light on a taboo subject of initiation schools, the controversial reason that the film has hogged headlines.

It would be a punch in the throat to tell South Africans how to feel about such a sacred part of our culture being laid bare for artistic expression. Trengove is so in-your-face about it especially in the beginning, that it leaves you terrified.

However, no matter how you feel about it, throughout the film, not once does it ever feel pointless. By the second act, it slowly becomes less exploitative as the love triangle takes centre stage.

On the technical aspect (cinematography, score, editing, sound) the film, exquisitely framed against the Eastern Cape rural landscape, is rich and flawless. What makes it even special is that it lets the character-driven and intimate screenplay shine above the rest.

Rating: 8/10

The Wound releases nationwide on Friday, 02 February.

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