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Film festival shines light on homosexuality in Africa

by Emma Misiaszek - Photo Editor
Tue, Feb 6th 2018 10:00 pm

As a part of its international film festival, the American Democracy Project hosted the second film of the spring, “The Wound” on Monday, Feb. 5. The theme of this year’s festival is “Identity in Conflicting Cultural Contexts.” Cosponsored by the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, International Education, Drake Memorial Library, and Women and Gender Studies, the festival focuses on dealing with identity crisis in an ever-changing world. 

“The Wound”, or also known as “Inexba”, is a South African film directed by John Trengrove. The film opened the Tel Aviv International LGBTQ Film Festival 2017 and competed in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. 

The film was also selected as the South African entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards and made the December short list. The film follows Xolani, a lonely, closeted gay man who travels to the mountains with the men in his community. They partake in an initiation ritual of the Xhosa, a Bantu ethnic group of Southern Africa. During this excursion in the wild, he comes to learn that his teenage mentee, Kwanda, is also gay, all the while continuing a secret affair with his fellow mentor, Vija. 

The circumcision and initiation of Xhosa boys into manhood is an ancient initiation rite of the South African group. After boys undergo circumcision, they are left with a wound that takes weeks to heal. 

The boys are then made to live in seclusion until their wound heals — or until their manhood is proven. Thus the title, “The Wound”.

“The Wound” unabashedly explores the taboo of homosexuality in South Africa.  In his film review for Slant Magazine, Keith Watson writes, “‘The Wound’ suggests that in societies that enforce strict gender norms, the passage into manhood is a scar that never fully heals.”

It is also important to note that the main character Xolani is played by Nakhane Touré, an openly gay South African musician. The actor, fellow costars and production team have faced harsh criticism by the Xhosa and many theaters have come under fire for screening the controversial film. 

“The beauty of all of this is that we have really caused an impact,” the film’s producer Elias Ribeiro said to variety.com. “There’s a national dialogue around toxic masculinity, around patriarchy, around homophobia.”

“The Wound” was selected for Brockport’s international film festival for its handling of gay identity in the strict cultural context of rural South Africa. 

“I was struck by the film because of how much it imposes masculinity on male bodies. I saw that as a super-forced hyper toxic construction … I was moved by how wrong these social gender constructions can become and also how taboo it became for homosexuality to be acknowledged…” said Barbara LeSavoy, dean of the Women and Gender Studies Department and member of the selection committee. “There is so much to dig into and pull apart.”

The screenings are open to the public every Monday night throughout the semester at 6:30 p.m. in the McCue Auditorium. The Iranian and French film “The Salesman” is the next screening of the festival,  which will be showing Monday, Feb. 12. 



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