Nakhane Toure, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay
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The Wound has its moments, but they’re pretty few and far between.
The titular wound here is a particularly painful one, because the story revolves around a traditional initiation process which begins with circumcision. It takes place in a remote mountain location in South Africa, where a group of teenage boys is subjected to an ordeal which lasts for a couple of weeks and evidently involves a considerable amount of discomfort and distress. Most of what transpires is murkily or discreetly filmed, but the content is still occasionally confronting – including the mercifully brief scenes involving animal slaughter.
So much for the context. Despite its intermittently extreme content, The Wound is first and foremost a relationship story. Xolani (Nakhane Toure) is a warehouse worker from Johannesburg who himself once underwent the initiation process, but who now regularly returns to be a “caregiver” and instruct the latest participants about what supposedly constitutes being a man. In so doing, he gets to reunite with fellow caregiver Xija (Bongile Mantsai). Homosexuality is not accepted at the camp, so Xolani and Xija have to sneak away for their encounters. Meanwhile, Xolani’s latest charge Kwanda (Niza Jay) has his suspicions…
The Wound has its moments, but they’re pretty few and far between. There are quite a few echoes of Brokeback Mountain here. Both films involve closeted gay characters who leave the city for clandestine rural meetings with their male paramours. Both have at least one protagonist who is macho, in denial and emotionally withdrawn. The main difference is that Brokeback Mountain was a substantial movie, and this isn’t. It’s moderately interesting as a window on another world, and passable as drama, but no more than that.