The Wound (2017)

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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.

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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.

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Zulu (2013)

Zulu (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jerome Salle
Country: South Africa / France

Movie Review: As it has been frequent, writer Julien Rappeneau collaborates once again with French director Jérome Salle (“The Heir Apparent: Largo Winch”, “The Burma Conspiracy”) in “Zulu”, a crime thriller based on the novel of the same name by Caryl Ferey. The story, set in post-apartheid South Africa, follows a cop with a traumatic childhood, Ali Sokhela (Forest Whitaker), and his trustful detective partner, Brian Epkeen (Orlando Bloom), in a murder case investigation related to the use of a new illegal substance, and involving Cape Town’s organized crime. Both men and a susceptible third detective, Dan (Conrad Kemp), whose fate will end tragically, will see the line that separates duty from family getting thinner, as the investigation case turns into a very personal matter. Extremely violent, “Zulu” revealed to be as messy as the characters it depicts. The pace is acceptable but the narrative structure was a problem, in a film that tried to convey an extended panorama of South African crime scene rather than focus in the particular case. Salle didn’t have sufficient ability to grab this task and reconstruct it on the screen, and the film loses itself in a few irrelevant scenes that left me waiting for something more substantial. The personal relationships didn’t have the effect they should, being too peripheral to make us care. Overall, the encompassed visions fell flat, both personal and global, of a South Africa infested with new gangsters, weapons and drugs.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Justin Chadwick
Country: South Africa / UK

Movie Review: Not so pertinent as it could be, “Mandela: a Long Walk to Freedom” is a limited biopic that inform us of some facts and ideas that persisted in Nelson Mandela’s life, without append anything else worthy. Initially, it showed some passion and was presented through eye-catching frames, but suffering from continual problems in the most varied details, that hampered the film from being satisfactory. The first half was far more interesting, showing the first steps of a young Mandela towards the historic liberation of his people from the white oppressiveness in South Africa called ‘apartheid’. In turn, the second half was very poor, with the scenes dragging one after another, at the same time that gave the sensation of being condensing a lot of information and leaving something behind. Considering its conventional approach, it was quite clear that helmer Justin Chadwick tried to please audiences, in detriment of risking any bold move that could make it distinctive. Idris Elba’s performance was the best aspect in the film, despite the awful characterization he was subjected to (close to a wax figure) and the fact of bearing a weak resemblance to the real man. Nelson’s wife, Winnie, well performed by Naomie Harris, still aroused some curiosity by taking an opposite position with respect to the conflict resolution, but even here, where the familiar tension should be imperative, Chadwick didn’t know how to take advantage of it, and remained stubbornly in his lack of vision and flawed narrative.

Life, Above All (2011)

Directed by: Oliver Schmitz
Country: South Africa

Plot: A touching mother-daughter relationship that reflects the modern South Africa.
Quick comment: I don’t remember of another movie about AIDS in Africa that had interested me so much. Thorough cinematography, genuine acting and a stylish directing is what you can find in this artsy south-african movie. It starts with a funeral and ends with a funeral, with misery and fear mixed up, but not everything is bad here. We can also feel the warmth of human feelings and friendship. You’ll feel rewarded.
Relevant awards: 2nd place for best film (Dubai).