9th October 2017 6.10pm at Picturehouse Central
10th October 2017 9.00pm at Ciné Lumière
12th October 2017 12.45pm at Vue West End
About masculinity, sexuality and identity in South Africa, John Trengove’s The Wound portrays coming-of-age rituals and conventions as a counterpoint to individual desires and emotions, particularly in reference to homosexuality; a clash between ancient customs and contemporary mores creates secrets, shame and inner rage in a struggle to cope with conflicting mindsets.
The film opens with factory worker Xolani – played by openly homosexual South African singer Nakhane Touré – leaving the city to preside over a rural conventional coming-of-age rite for teenage boys. A wealthy ex-tribesman asks Xolani to take special charge of his son, Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini), whom he believes is spoiled and soft, the latter being Westernised and unapologetically gay.
With an atmosphere of urgent, alarming, claustrophobic intensity, the initiation ceremony centres around a crudely performed circumcision without anaesthesia, in which the youths are not allowed to express their pain, or else will be deemed weaklings and not men. Covered in white paint throughout the ritual period, the original traditional state of the tribe is fully achieved, while the boys make references to iPhones and Snapchat.
Xolani is a closeted homosexual, as in traditional South Africa to be anything but heterosexual is taboo. Having had a long-standing secret affair with married father Vija (Bongile Mantsai) he hopes to renew their bond, but Vija is more conservative and resists.
Teased about his high-priced sneakers and elitist attitude, young Kwanda doesn’t care; he questions everything. After a brief dalliance with Xolani, he quickly understands what is going on between the two older men and the power dynamic shifts as Kwanda provokes them into coming to terms with their homosexuality.
The excellent performances are visceral, potential violence palpitating beneath the surface of tense facial expressions. The camera spotlights symbols of clashing cultures in juxtaposition with stunning widescreen shots and superb, powerful close-ups of the actors emphasise potent explosive emotions. Beautiful landscapes, often softly lit, are poetic, echoing a mood of wildness and ambiguous passion.
Asking what it is to be a man, the work is philosophical: Do old-fashioned attitudes and expectations surrounding masculinity hold up in the face of real identities? What if sense of self contradicts the role that is forced on you? The Wound is a remarkable, intriguing and thoughtful exploration of manhood through the lens of African culture – and the questions it raises are universal.
The Wound does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2017 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for The Wound here: