Berlin 2017 – Panorama
Xolani, a lonely factory worker, joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best kept secret, Xolani’s entire existence begins to unravel.
A bold first feature on Black African masculinity and manhood set in the secretive world of Xhosa rites of passage.
Niza Jay Ncoyini
South African director John Trengove tackles the compelling subject of black masculinity for his brazen feature debut, The Wound, which also serves as a cinematic introduction for famed singer Nakhane Toure. Examining the traditional homosocial rituals amongst an increasingly marginalized black community, Trengove takes pains to include the problematic perspective of privilege by filtering this narrative through the lens of an outsider. The intersection of masculinity, the notion of manhood, and the taboo of homosexuality congeal into an increasingly tense cocktail which manages to hit a surprising chart of emotionally charged moments ranging from tenderness to outright hostility, a textured, intimate portrait of how doggedly holding onto archaic traditions allows for the majority to force the marginalized apart.
— Nicolas Bell, IONCINEMA.COM
John Trengove's hard-edged but beautifully wrought study of clashing Xhosa models of masculinity will be an eye-opener to outsiders — and some South Africans too... personal and sexual insecurities come violently to the surface. Universally identifiable but rooted in fascinating indigenous tradition... Ukwaluka, a lengthy, tribally rooted rite of passage for male Xhosa teens, begins with their ritual circumcision in the wilderness, and continues through the weeks that the resulting wound takes to heal, with the boys sequestered from society until their manhood is thus proven. Prominently and somewhat romantically described by Nelson Mandela in his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom” — thus breaking the ritual’s traditional vow of secrecy — it has become a hot-button issue in its home country, with many questioning its medical safety ...sensitive to the hard taboo that homosexuality remains in black South African culture — “The Wound’s” sexually frank depiction of which marks it as something of a milestone in the country’s cinema... sensitively nuanced in its portrait of an outmoded tribal culture coming apart at the seams...
— Guy Lodge, VARIETY
John Trengove’s debut feature explores masculinity and repressed sexuality through an outsider’s experience of a South African initiation ritual... Set among the Xhosa ethnic group of South Africa during an initiation ritual that’s not supposed to be discussed, let alone depicted on the big screen, John Trengove’s first feature takes real chances, delivering a troubling portrait of the collision between communal and personal identity... Nakhane Touré, an openly gay South African singer, makes an impressive screen debut as Xolani, who went through the ritual years earlier and now participates as a caregiver to initiates... In his educated, privileged and relatively Westernized perspective, Kwanda is something of a surrogate for the director, who as a white filmmaker is also an outsider looking in on a cloistered cultural practice... Trengove builds a sense of dread among the three central characters, their wary gazes and physical provocations brimming with potential violence. Recognizing uneasy truths about themselves in one another, they’re each threatened, with Xolani caught between the swaggering Vija, whom he loves, and the defiant Kwanda, who boldly questions, and withdraws from, the rite of passage.
— Sheri Linden, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
A traditional rite of passage is the catalyst for exploring conflicting notions of what it means to be a man in The Wound, an assured first feature from writer-director John Trengove. The initial promise of a South African Brokeback Mountain broadens into a measured consideration of class, race, self-loathing and self-assertion in a compact but pleasingly complex drama... If the connections between the central trio are at the heart of the film then the wider focus is very much on contrasts between urban and rural, ancient and modern (the ritual is dying out among a younger generation), wealth and poverty. Kwanda is constantly teased for his expensive trainers and privileged lifestyle but he also comes to embody a more forward-looking, progressive South Africa that starts to feel more and more like an impossible dream as the film unfolds.
— Alan Hunter, SCREEN INTERNATIONAL