Daniel Nelson

The Wound

The Wound

Image by The Wound

Director John Trengove says that statements by Mugabe and other African leaders since the early '90s “imply that homosexuality is a symptom of Western decadence that threatens 'traditional' culture. And so we thought, OK, 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.”

From that idea, Trengove has fashioned a powerful story, about a factory worker, Xolani, who is appointed “care-giver” to Kwanda, a city boy from Johannesburg who he must guide through the coming-of-age rituals.

Kwanda is quickly picked out and picked on by the other boys at the two-week camp. Equally quickly he picks up on the relationship between Xolani and another care-giver, the tougher, more “manly” Vija.

The two mentors meet every year at the camp, the secretive institution that provides cover for their sexual relationship and mutual affection. For the rest of the year, between camps, it is too dangerous to publicly admit their secret or deviate from heterosexual conventions. But whereas Xolani lives for the few days of the ceremony, as the only place he can express his true nature, Vija has moved to town and has a growing family – a set-up he is not prepared to jeopardise.

Jealousies, desires and tensions simmer between the three, with Kwanda prodding Xolani like a man with a stick stirring up a wasps nest. Kwanda is not prepared to stay in the closet and make compromises.

Trengove has said that “Kwanda is an outsider to the traditional world who expresses more or less my own ideas about human rights and individual freedom. He’s also the problem. His preconceptions create jeopardy and crisis for others who have much more to lose than him.”

Trengove also admits that ’’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.”

But the film is not preachy or boringly instructive. It's a grippingly told, visually striking drama in which the camp provides a fascinating background for the men's battles.

* The Wound will open in London on 27 April 


The Sutherland Award  is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the London Film Festival, and this year’s winner is John Trengove for THE WOUND, a powerful exploration of masculinity and unspoken queer desire set in the remote mountains of South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

The jury said:


We found ourselves enamoured by the urgency, vitality and originality of The Wound. Director John Trengove and his terrific cast have created a dynamic and inimitable coming-of-age story that takes a heart-breaking look at masculinity and sexuality."

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