When the South African film The Wound screened at Sundance, Variety critic Guy Lodge noted its “sensitiv[ity] to the hard taboo that homosexuality remains in black South African culture,” saying that its “sexually frank depiction of [it] marks it as something of a milestone in the country’s cinema,” and the Hollywood Reporter review by Sheri Linden called it “a troubling portrait of the collision between communal and personal identity” in its focus on masculinity and sexuality through the Xhosa male circumcision initiation ritual, ulwaluko. The film apparently stirred controversy, as CNN reported back in March, with calls for boycotts from within the Xhosa community, as well as homophobic online abuse aimed at one of its stars — the openly gay South African singer Nakhane Touré. It clearly comes with a lot of baggage indicative of many of the issues the film itself tackles — and it’s coming stateside on August 16 via Kino Lorber, who just released its gripping trailer, which you can watch below.
The Wound, directed by John Trengove and co-written by Thando Mgqolozana, Malusi Bengu, and Trevgove (in isiXhosa with subtitles), stars Touré as a man who returns to the Eastern Cape bush yearly to perform the role of a caregiver in the weeks-long initiation of younger boys, as they prove themselves worthy of manhood in the wilderness while their wound heals, and as their stamina is tested. Touré’s character’s motives for participating are, however, not what they seem: his character, Xolani, is closeted, and returns annually to rekindle a continued affair with another initiator, the married-with-children Vija (Bongile Mantsai). But then Xolani’s initiate Kwanda (who himself is from a privileged background, questions the whole rite of passage, and happens to be gay) uncovers their secret. He becomes frustrated by their repression, and as CNN describes, “tradition, class and toxic masculinity clash” and rise “to an inevitable boil.”
Touré, who’d started receiving hate mail following a social media campaign against the film, told CNN that the individuals behind the abuse “don’t know what it’s about, or who made it, they’re just really mad that it exists…People were mad that a specific passage was being mentioned, but underneath it was the whole idea that the queerness made it even more perverse.” He continued to say, “There’s nothing I’m more proud of than being Xhosa…Sometimes I feel like there’s a demonization of the culture. On the other hand, the culture is very patriarchal.”
Watch the trailer:
Here’s the poster:
Check out the single-take video for Touré’s “Fog” (his first music video, from back in 2013):