VOD film review: The Wound (Inxeba)
James R | On 29, Apr 2018
Director: John Trengove
Cast: Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay Ncoyini
Watch The Wound online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Curzon Home Cinema / BFI Player / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play / Sky Store
“How can love destroy a nation?” asks Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini) in The Wound, John Trengove’s tough and tender drama.
An exploration of masculinity in South Africa, it follows the city boy from Johannesburg who is sent into the mountains for a Xhosa rite of passage: Ukwaluka, the circumcision of young men to mark their transition into manhood. It’s an intensely closed-off ritual, one that was detailed by Nelson Mandela in his autobiography, and John Trengove’s low-key study of culture and identity offers an eye-opening insight into something specific and foreign, which opens out into a powerfully universal story.
Kwanda is assigned to Xolani (Nakhane Touré), an older factory worker from Queenstown, who is dubbed his “caregiver”. Kwanda’s dad requests that Xolani is hard on him, helping his son, whom he views as too soft, to man up. Kwanda, we learn quickly, is gay, but is yet to come out to his dad in his closeted, traditional community. But what emerges over the course of these intense 90 minutes is that Xolani also has his own secret: a romantic relationship with Vija (Bongile Mantsai), another of the camp’s mentors, which they ignite, and reignite, every summer, when they return to shepherd the next generation of men through this ritual.
It’s a discovery that causes this compressed bubble to slowly collapse, as different perceptions of masculinity collide and overlap. Which man has truly come of age? The younger boy, who has little time for the traditions of denial? Or the married man with a family who retreats back to the mountains to be himself? One feels trapped inside the ritual, the other trapped outside of it.
Niza Jay Ncoyini is excellent as Kwanda, at once heartfelt, innocent and resilient, while Mantsai brings a surprising note of power and control to Vija. In the middle of the two, Touré is the most intriguing screen presence, balancing out the strength of a grown man with a traumatic inner conflict. The idea of not speaking about what goes on in the mountains takes on a whole new meaning, as the men wrap themselves in secrecy.
Trengove aligns himself with Kwanda, as an outsider in this community, but the South African filmmaker treats his subject matter sensitively, co-writing the script with Thando Mgqolozana, whose own book A Man Who Is Not a Man, has broached similar topics. Within these traditions, Trengove finds a humanist drama that explores not only the wound itself that Kwanda must endure – portrayed with a frank, blunt honesty that sets the tone from the opening scene – but the emotional scars of keeping one’s sexuality a secret, and the vulnerability of having that potentially exposed to the world. Sitting alongside Britain’s God’s Own Country as a thought-provoking film that uses location to lingering effect, this is a painful, challenging piece of complex cinema that tears open unspoken lesions and leaves them gaping.
The Wound is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.