26 November 2017
“It is no surprise that the film has caused an uproar in its native land: The Wound touches on the sensitive issue of same-sex desire in a culture with high regard for upholding its male politics and traditions.”
As a masters film student at University of Sussex and editor of Lilok Pelikula website, Richard Bolisay provides his unique viewpoint on some of our CINECITY 2017 selections.
Director: John Trengove
Writers: John Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana, Malusi Bengu
What The Wound examines is not just the austerity of the traditional circumcision rites by the Xhosa people in South Africa, involving young men secluded in the mountains for weeks until their initiation into manhood ends, but also the harshness that emerges from such cultural practices, specifically the violence and abuse in its extremely patriarchal customs. It is in this unapologetically stark depiction that the film manages to convey, on one hand, a powerful drama of a closeted gay relationship unable to find acceptance and validation and, on the other, a tale of a boy who has grown up in a well-off, modern environment struggling to defy society’s expectations from him.
It is no surprise that the film has caused an uproar in its native land: The Wound touches on the sensitive issue of same-sex desire in a culture with high regard for upholding its male politics and traditions. The ritual is also something not meant to be discussed, let alone be filmed, and the audience easily feels this tension imbued in the sequences showing the rites. Just in its mere depiction, the viewer is put in the position of questioning it. Is the continuation of a cultural practice enough reason for something so violent and unsafe to be upheld? Is a man defined only by his sexual organ and his ability to display machismo? The director, John Trengove, and his co-writers, Thando Mgqolozana (who wrote the book that inspired the film) and Malusi Bengu, go further: In this milieu with already-set rules for conduct in which people are expected to follow them, how does one with a different set of values and principles live and find contentment?
They do not provide definite answers, but they show the inevitability, and importance, of struggle. In fact, The Wound finds its core in contending with the customs, in illustrating these three characters (the two lovers and the initiate who has discovered their relationship) fraught in the aggressiveness of their situation. The film gains its power from the raw performances of its actors, the emphasis on confinement in its shots (making use of its rural setting to show nature against “the unusual”), and the strong direction that can be too heavy-handed at times. However, the decision to end the film on a bleak note, in a gesture that is probably intended more to be realistic than defeatist, comes too abrupt, and such effect stays longer than expected. —Richard Bolisay
You can read Richard’s other CINECITY 2017 reviews:
Richard Bolisay is currently doing his masters in film studies at University of Sussex.
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