Protests expected as movie about Xhosa initiation hits screens

The Wound has received critical international acclaim
Picture: Supplied

Security has been jacked up at Port Elizabeth’s Walmer Park shopping centre ahead of the release of controversial film Inxeba – also known as The Wound – as several groups have threatened to picket and boycott its screening.

The film depicts the traditional ritual of ukwaluka – a Xhosa tradition into manhood – as well as sexual identity in the form of a gay love story.

Despite the backlash and initiation forum threats, producer Elias Ribeiro said it was important to showcase the rich untold stories of the country.

“We have had a positive response from many people in the Xhosa community who feel the movie was well presented, but there have also been people from a conservative perspective who are upset.”

“We couldn’t be more excited about [today] – it has been long coming and it was a very hard decision to make to write this story,” he said.

Set on the outskirts of Queenstown, the film portrays a love story among men and their coming of age in the psychological thriller format.

“There’s a lack of representation of black queer movies in the cinema, especially of this calibre.

“It is a film that talks about toxic masculinity, patriarchy and love between men, as well as the consequences of not living authentically.”

Referring to the possibility of a boycott at Walmer Park’s NuMetro cinema, Ribeiro said: “I feel very upset because to have people behave in this way against an artist’s expression in 2018 is unfortunate.

“I think people have the right to be upset, but they do not have the right to be violent and damage cinemas that have nothing to do with the filmmaking process – they are just the middleman.”

He said the initial plan was not to release the film in the Eastern Cape as various cinemas feared violence.

Walmer Park NuMetro cinema manager Mark Whitnall said the centre’s security had been beefed up and was prepared for any acts of defiance.

“The Initiation Forum of the Eastern Cape has taken action on its part to try to stop people from watching the movie, but we are under contract to show it.

“Centre management and security are aware of the boycott and there are plans in place to prevent anything violent from happening,” he said.

Whitnall said he did not want any action directed at shoppers or the cinema.

“We are aware of the controversy in the movie but we are not the only cinema showing this movie – it is being [shown] nationwide in all cinemas.

The film was scheduled to be released today at Hemingways Mall NuMetro in East London where House of Traditional Leaders provincial chairman Mwelo Nonkonyana said there would be a picket in a bid to halt viewing.

“We have instructed our lawyers to prepare an interdict against the screening of the film in Buffalo City because the making of this film shows a distorted reality of our customs,” Nonkonyana said.

“When boys go into the mountains they won’t even tell their mother what happened there because of the [privacy] of the customs.

“We have found that this movie is scandalising our customs for the pockets of the filmmakers.

“It is a distortion of what is actually happening when these boys go to the mountain,” he said.

Hemingways said on Facebook earlier it would no longer be screening the movie. Officials however were not available to comment.

Meanwhile, during an exclusive prescreening of the film hosted by TshisaLIVE on Wednesday night, Ribeiro gave the audience a glimpse into some of the challenges they have faced to make their dream of bringing the eye-opening film to local screens.

Ribeiro revealed that some members of the team had worked free‚ while cast members had earned a pittance and they had got into a lot of debt for marketing costs to take the film to Oscar prescreenings in Los Angeles.

He said he had been brought onto the project to help with foreign funding as the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) had initially rejected their requests for funding on four occasions.

However‚ the NFVF had come on board after seeing the international attention the film got.

“The NFVF saw the film again at post-production stage, but had no contribution or say in the production process,” Ribeiro said.

“They came on board after we got an invitation to the Sundance Film Festival and they gave us a chunk of change to put their logo on it. We weren’t desperate [for funding from them].”

“The misconception is that we are rich guys exploiting other people’s culture, but the truth is [screenplay writer] Malusi [Bengu] worked free on this film for about four years. I might get paid soon.

“Niza [Jay Ncoyini] cannot really afford six months of rent and food with the salary he earned working really hard on this film. We are still trying to make financial sense of this endeavour.”

He later explained that while 80% of the film’s budget had been raised before the project wrapped up‚ the main creators had had to forgo a salary until the funds could be raised.

“We got funding from international film bodies and from winning awards‚ like at the Venice Film Festival‚ but we really had to make it up as we went along.”

He said the biggest achievement of the project was how it had started dialogue about issues which were previously swept under the carpet.

He also said that 85% of people who attended Oscar pre-screenings of the film had given it the thumbs up and thought it should have been nominated for an Oscar.

The film was shortlisted for a nomination in the Best Foreign Film category ahead of the 2018 Oscar Awards‚ which cost the producers millions to market and campaign.

“Historically‚ for a film like this to make more than a million or two in the box-office is unheard of,” Ribeiro said.

“We basically need a miracle to actually fulfil the prophecy that we are going to be rich off this film.”

“The big question is how do we pay the rent now? And we have been lucky enough to get funding for our next project, which helps a lot.”

The film has courted controversy since the trailer for it was released early last year.

It was criticised by traditional leaders and social media users for its portrayal of the Xhosa initiation ceremony.

One of the film’s writers‚ Thando Mqgolozona‚ said he had been labelled a sell-out by those closest to him for this portrayal.

He said his motivation to make the film had been to show that black men could be more than what society dictated they should be like.

Protesters from the Man and Boy Foundation reportedly staged a sit-in at the Film and Publication Board offices in Centurion this week to demand the film be cancelled or edited.

Ncoyini responded to this action‚ saying that if they had seen the film they might possibly not feel the way they did.

Meanwhile, during an exclusive prescreening of the film hosted by TshisaLIVE on Wednesday night, Ribeiro gave the audience a glimpse into some of the challenges they have faced to make their dream of bringing the eye-opening film to local screens.

Leave a Reply