Cast: Nakhane Touré, Bongiwe Mantsai, Niza Jay
Director: John Trengrove In iXhosa with English sub-titles)
Winner of 19 international awards so far, “Inxeba: The Wound” is a fascinating look into a world that is denied to most of us. It’s a penetrating study of a controversial subject: the Xhosa initiation ceremony.
Controversy has surrounded the making of the film with accusations levelled at the filmmakers saying the production disrespects the sacred cultural rite. However the producers have hit back, saying the film aims to start difficult but important conversations about this practice.
To add salt to the wound (so to speak) there is a strong homosexual thread running through the narrative. It also explores how the elders are slaves to tradition abd refuse to be swayed by modern thinking, a key aspect in the film’s drive.
“Inxeba” is an intense cinematic experience and deals with the journey of factory worker Xolani (Nakhane Touré) who joins the men of the Eastern Cape community in the mountains for the initiation of a group of teenage boys into manhood. He serves as one of the caregivers.
When a defiant initiate (Niza Jay) from the big city discovers Xolani’s best kept secret, the man’s entire existence is threatened. The film also highlights in graphic detail a gay love affair between Xolani and Vija (Bongiwe Mantsai), a fellow caregiver.
The standard of the acting is natural and authentic and the story flows effortlessly through the highs and lows of the initiation process and the emotions that emerge when a group of men (both young and old) converge on a mountain.
At the end of it all, audiences will have to come to their own conclusion on a thorny subject that lies deeply embedded in African culture.