Gay Xhosa initiation film premieres at Sundance

2017-01-22 10:01
Nakhane Touré

Johannesburg - Xhosa Twitter lost its mind this week when the final trailer for upcoming isiXhosa film The Wound was posted online.

The film, which premieres at the Sundance Film Festival in the US tonight, tells the story of three Xhosa men whose lives intertwine while undergoing the traditional Xhosa initiation ceremony.

The trailer only subtly hints at the secrets shared between them, but just the insinuation of a romantic relationship between the male ceremonial caretaker and a male initiate was enough to incite significant outrage.

“Utter bullsh*t and betrayal of a sacred rite of passage tradition! Everyone who went there and paid attention to lessons knows this!” said one tweeter, while another said: “This is not right, look at how they disrespect our tradition.”

Another tweeted: “But what happens is supposed to stay there. No one is meant to know anything about the process.”

Most of the tweets are directed at the film’s lead actor Nakhane Touré who plays the role of Xolani, a factory worker who is in charge of initiating a group of teenage boys.

But Touré, while packing his bags before he left for the festival this week, told City Press that he wasn’t too worried about what people said about him or his role in the film.

“I’m really not stressed any more. These are our stories. Sometimes when people can’t relate they go to anger – it’s understandable, it’s their culture – but it takes a lot of individuals to make a culture.

"It’s telling the truth, a particular kind of truth, yes, but a truth that someone, maybe many, have experienced.”

Touré, who was also one of 2016’s breakout musical acts, will also play two shows at the festival’s annual Music Café of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

“I’m good at repressing my feelings, so it wasn’t until today – the day I am leaving – that I understood how big this whole festival is, and how exciting this film is.

"That film was not easy to make, you know, so what you’re seeing there is a labour of love, and I’m just excited that people are going to see it.”

The film has been nominated in the world dramatic category – the only film from Africa to be nominated this year – and reportedly only the second South African narrative film to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival in its history.

An international jury of the movie world’s big players will now choose between them to select the winners in categories such as best film and best actor.

The film’s director, John Trengove, had been prepared for the first wave of backlash.

“This is something we have been speaking about since the beginning of the process and we’re clear about the sensitivity of what we’re doing.

“I don’t believe there is anything exploitative or exposing about the culture in the film.

"If anything, I think we’re actually speaking about something really important about the culture that clearly isn’t being discussed enough.”

From its premiere this evening at Sundance, the film goes on to open the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival on February 9.

It will then premiere locally at the Durban International Film Festival in June.

Watch the trailer here

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