BY THE TIMES EDITORIAL
International accolades are streaming in for the locally produced film The Wound (Inxeba), a movie exploring the relationship between two men in the context of the Xhosa initiation ritual. But on local soil it has received a cold reception. So cold, in fact, that the cast and crew have been receiving death threats, and lead actor Nakhane Touré was told he would be burnt alive.
AmaXhosa king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu is on record saying the film is totally inappropriate for revealing “very sensitive and secret things” and has vowed to lodge a complaint to the Film and Publication Board and National Heritage Council.
“It is insulting to the tradition because it stripped the tradition of its secrecy and sacredness,” Sigcawu told The Times.
His criticism is based on the trailer for the film which is available on YouTube. The movie is yet to be released in South African cinemas.
The film’s producers have repeatedly said no deep secrets are revealed. Touré, who walked away with the Best Actor award at the prestigious Durban International Film Festival, believes the real reason for the anger is centred on homophobia.
“People have jumped to conclusions about a film they haven’t even seen. I speak as a Xhosa man who has been to initiation, and who is proud to have done so, when I say that no secrets are revealed. What is being revealed instead is a violent homophobia,” he said.
His observation strikes a chord. How much of what is being touted as criticism is concern over cultural rites and how much is thinly disguised prejudice?
If Touré is right – and he should know since he’s openly gay – the criticism is not because of what the film reveals about initiation, but because it tells of a love often still forbidden – yet protected by our constitution – in some cultures. Such prejudice still lingering in our society cannot lead to censorship of this film.