Kino Lorber’s newest film, The Wound, explores queer coming-of-age in South Africa, where Xhosa men must embark on a several-week-long journey to initiate into manhood. The film follows Kwanda, a city boy from Johannesburg whose father sends him on the initiation, Ukwaluka, in order to toughen him up.
Kwanda’s guide, Xolani is a factory worker who has a secret relationship with another guide, Vija. The guides go with the men to nurse them and mentor them after their ritual circumcision. While Kwanda makes sense of their relationship, the three men enter a dangerous dance of their emotions, identities, and attractions. Meanwhile, they run the risk of being exposed in a hyper-masculine, dangerous environment.
The film is written and directed by John Trengove, a white South African film director. Trengove brought Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu on as co-writers for the film. Mgqolozana is the author of A Man Who is Not a Man, a story revolving around Ukwaluka. He was sold on Trengove’s film project not because of its focus on the ritual, but because of the way it explored different kinds of masculinity in South Africa.
Trengove admits that as a white man it’s complicated, if not problematic to make a film about Xhosa rituals which he has never experienced. While he has interviewed men who have gone through Ukwaluka, he still tries to keep his own judgments and opinions out of the movie. The relationships and choices made by Kwanda, Xolani, and Vija are complicated and tricky, especially from an outsider perspective.
“This was my way of saying: ‘I don’t have the answers and my own values don’t necessarily apply here,’” Trengove said.
In addition to interviewing Xhosa men, only Xhosa men who have gone through Ukwaluka were cast in the movie, including extras. Any actor could speak up during filming if they thought their character’s behavior was unrealistic.
The Wound debuted at The 2017 Sundance Film Festival, won Outstanding First Feature at Frameline in San Francisco, and was the opening night selection at Berlinale Panorama. It also won best International Film at Outfest in Los Angeles.
The film will debut at the Film Forum in New York on August 16 and run until August 29. Check out the trailer below.