Movie Review

'Inxeba: The Wound' asks piercing questions about what makes men men

The reaction to John Trengove’s film about the Xhosa tradition of Ukwaluka has slyly changed from indignation to admiration

04 February 2018 - 00:00

In recent years the politically correct and culturally sensitive have been quick to pounce on ideas they don't like the sound of before they've seen the actual product of those ideas.
Thus it was that the first, angry and outraged reaction to John Trengove's film Inxeba: The Wound began to be published last year on the opinion pages of newspapers by writers who felt that the idea of a film about the age-old Xhosa tradition of Ukwaluka, featuring several homosexual characters and directed by a white man, was an insult to Xhosa culture which could not go unchallenged.
Most of those writers had seen little more than a trailer for the film. Since the film has begun to screen both here and internationally, the reaction to it has slyly changed from indignation to admiration for its acting and underplayed, layered examination of masculinity.

And finally, it was nominated for this year's Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards - an accolade which it unfortunately and unfairly failed to receive.
The reasons for this change in attitude have everything to do with Trengove's sensitive direction and the superbly understated, complex performance of Nakhane (nee Toure).
The screenplay, by Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu, steers clear of anthropological exoticisation and judgment in favour of taking on the bigger challenge of exploring universal issues of the shaping of masculinities and the conflicts between tradition and modernity.
It's an all too relatable coming-of-age story with a tragic romance at its centre and piercing questions about what makes men men at its heart.
Xolani (Nakhane) is a young, quiet and seemingly timid Queenstown factory worker who makes an annual pilgrimage to the mountains ostensibly to serve as a caregiver to new initiates, but actually to rekindle his long-running illicit affair with fellow caregiver and married man Vija (Bongile Mantsai)...

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