In his groundbreaking Oscar-nominated film The Wound, director John Trengove deals with themes relating to tradition and masculinity in modern South Africa. Staring openly gay actor Nakhane Touré, the film offers a brave and honest depiction of a gay love story between two men who have devoted their existence to helping maintain a tradition in which young men are brought into the wilderness each year to undergo the act of circumcision.
Touré is Xolani (nicknamed X), a quiet and lonely factory worker whose life has been dominated by his own standing as a closeted gay man living within the constraints of the traditional Xhosa community. In the hope of being reconciled with a former lover named Vija (Bongile Mantsai), each year X makes his way into the wilderness in order to mentor a group of young boys brought in by their fathers to undergo a traditional rite of passage which will require them to stay away from their homes and villages until the wounds from their circumcisions are fully healed.
Entrusted with a young city boy named Kwanda (Niza Jay), X must learn to confront his own demons in order to help the young man come to terms with his own burgeoning sexuality. As the two men learn to negotiate what they really know about one another and the secrets they keep from each other, Johannesburg-born Kwanda becomes increasingly concerned with the fate of his mentor and what he considers an unhealthy relationship with the overbearing and, at times, violent Vija.
Trengove, who directs as well as co-writes this beautifully crafted story, approaches the subject of sexuality in traditional settings with a great deal of respect and tenderness towards his protagonists and the community they belong to. Whilst taking a far more critical approach on how homosexuality is regarded within small traditional communities, the film is careful to never berate or be too judgemental towards the people it depicts, preferring instead to act as a witness to this powerful tale of love and deceit.
As moments of real tenderness between the lovers are intercut with violent outburst from Vija, we are often forced to take stock of the challenges met by LGBT communities in remote African areas, even in a country like South Africa in which homosexuality might be legal, but is still regarded as a taboo subject.
Overall, The Wound presents a moving, challenging and thought-provoking narrative which will move you beyond what you thought possible. Both Nakhane Touré and Bongile Mantsai put in beautifully measured and highly skilled turns as the star-crossed lovers destined to repeat the same ritual for the rest of their existence, whilst Niza Jay gives a truly outstanding performance as Kwanada. A beautifully well told, well acted and expertly executed piece of filmmaking.
The Wound is in cinemas from Friday the 27th of April