The Wound (2017)


Directed by John Trengrove
Country: South Africa

South African filmmaker John Trengrove received rave reviews at Sundance and Berlin with his debut feature “The Wound”. The capable drama, beautifully photographed by Paul Ozgur and set in the rural mountains of the Eastern Cape, South Africa, focuses on the Xhosa initiation ritual, which consists of traditional circumcision and initiation into manhood of teenage boys under the guidance of their respective caregivers. According to sources, ‘what happens on the mountain stays on the mountain’.

The plot, co-written by Trengrove, Malusi Bengu, and Thando Mgqolozana, centers on a conflicting love triangle involving a city boy, the initiate Kwanza (Niza Jay Ncoyini), who was dragged by his father in hopes to get him tougher, his caregiver, Xolani (Nakhane Touré), and the latter’s childhood friend and secret lover, Vija (Bongile Mantsai), also an experienced caregiver.


Xolani is in love with Vija, who, every year, during the initiation process, gets sexually involved with him but without paying much attention to his feelings. The astute Kwanza, easily perceiving the forbidden relationship between the two men, defies the Xhosa ways with his rebelliousness. Besides seducing the hypocrite Vija and criticizing Xolani due to his lack of acceptance and closed homosexuality, Kwanza also refuses to speak up in front of the elders, which is a mandatory module to be followed. The threesome embarks on a tense dance that quickly adjusts from bitter to tragic.

The Wound” is a singular sexual film whose dramatic force is undeniable. Culturally informative, the film stirred controversy when the crew and cast were subjected to death threats and violence after the film’s premiere in the East Cape province.

Trengrove, whose career was leaning toward the TV, delivers an auspicious, revelatory first feature that has all the ingredients to make you alert from start to finish. An agile camerawork, dexterous storytelling, and competent performances helped define the psychological conflicts of the characters in a film that never oscillates in tone while unveiling hidden aspects of a closeted practice.