Brimming with sex and violence, The Wound is an exploration of tradition and sexuality set amid South Africa’s Xhosa culture. Every year, the tribe’s young men are brought to the mountains of the Eastern Cape to participate in an ancient coming-of-age ritual. Xolani, a quiet and sensitive factory worker (played by openly gay musician Nakhane Touré), is assigned to guide Kwanda, a city boy from Johannesburg sent by his father to be toughened up, through this rite of passage into manhood.
As Kwanda defiantly negotiates his queer identity within this masculine environment, he quickly recognizes the nature of Xolani’s relationship with fellow guide Vija. The three men commence a dangerous dance with each other and their own desires and, soon, the threat of exposure elevates the tension to breaking point. The Wound had its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, was the opening night selection of Berlinale Panorama, and won Outstanding First Feature at Frameline in San Francisco.
According to the director’s note from filmmaker John Trengove, The Wound “was born out of a desire to push back against clichéd stereotypes of black masculinity perpetuated inside and outside of African cinema.” He went on to say “a film such as this cannot hope to provide solutions for the crisis faced by millions of queer people in the African continent and around the world, only to present the crisis for what it is – a deep and ever widening chasm. In writing The Wound, inspiration came, unexpectedly, from Robert Mugabe. Statements that he and other African leaders have made since the early ’90s imply that homosexuality is a symptom of western decadence that threatens ‘traditional’ culture. And so we thought okay: let’s use that idea. Let’s imagine ‘gayness’ as some kind of virus that penetrates and threatens a patriarchal organism, and let’s see how that organism responds to being penetrated.”