The beauty of coming-of-age films is that not everyone is the same as everyone’s journey is different. Since working in cinema, I have seen many of these films come and go. Diary Of A Teenage Girl captured the innocence and confusion of puberty, Boyhood displayed (in real time) how growing up just isn’t easy, Blue Is The Warmest Colour showed us passion & courage and Moonlight told the world that race and sexuality should not stand in the way of who you are.
The Wound (Inxeba) is different from all of these. It tells a story that a lot of young people around the world may not comprehend or understand, yet also resonates with many as well. The film, set in South Africa, follows factory worker Xolani (played beautifully by singer/novelist Nakhane Touré) as he joins his community in the mountains for their annual initiation ceremony (known as Ulwaluko). Not only does Xolani act as a ‘caregiver’ to one of the initiates each year, but he also looks forward to continuing his secret romance with fellow caregiver, Vija (who is married with children). Xolani’s initiate this year is Kwanda, a rich kid from Johannesburg who is gay (Kwanda is sent to the mountain by his wealthy father in the hope the initiation will change him).
Although it has been many years since Xolani’s initiation, his story is just as much about his own coming-of-age as it is Kwanda’s. He is torn between his community and his dreams of living a more liberal life in the city. Through conversations with the other caregivers, Xolani expresses how he is alone and his community and job are all he’s ever known. Although he is a ‘man’, he is not living the life as a man he wants or needs. The three men battle with their feelings and loyalties, often coming to blows. Kwanda, despite coming from a background of privilege, initially braves the ceremony with dignity. Yet, as the days progress, his liberal beliefs and material loves begin to affect his involvement and relationships with the other initiates. Xolani hurts, yet cannot let his feelings affect his established position within the ceremony
Despite winning Best Picture at the South African Film and Television Awards and being short-listed for an Oscar, The Wound is still shrouded in controversy in South Africa. Many have called for the film to be banned (it was for a little while) and to be reclassified as pornography. Members of the Eastern-Cape community have criticised it for disrespecting their culture and the depictions of the ancient ritual, whilst others praise it for finally representing LGBTQ Xhosa’s. The cast has received death threats, yet their brilliant performances have also brought them respect and career elevation too. This certainly is a divisive film, but ultimately it tells a classic tale of finding yourself and the difficulties of transitioning into maturity. John Trevgove has delivered a powerful piece of art with his directorial debut, allowing the dialogue and subtle cinematography to tell a rare story, ultimately winning him and his team international praise.
Hop House 13 is proud to present Discover Tuesdays.