Since the trailer of the South African film “The Wound” (Inxeba) dropped in March last year, the backlash against it has been building. It got worse this year when the movie was released in cinemas nationwide in February. Protests were held, with some cinemas forced to pull the film after their workers were threatened.
The film portrays the traditional ritual of “ukwaluka” – a Xhosa initiation rite – as well as sexual identity in the form of a gay love story.
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Thousands of South African boys each year undergo circumcision as a rite of passage across several different cultures. But the practice has come under modern scrutiny following the deaths of some of the initiates at the hands of unscrupulous practitioners.
Scores of South Africans do not know what goes on in the mountain during the circumcision and many advocates of the initiation argue that it is supposed to be so.
Therefore, the depiction of queer love at the secret Xhosa ritual is what is getting people angry – traditional leaders and social media users have heavily criticized the film, describing it as the appropriation of Xhosa culture.
“It is not okay to subjectively delve into traditions and practices you are not a part of under the guise of sparking debate and engagement,” write Lwando Xaso and Zukiswa Pikoli, in a direct address to John Trengrove, the film’s director, who is a white South African. “It is not your place because you are not speaking as a member of that society,” the two Xhosa women writers added.
John Trengrove had earlier issued a statement, claiming that the film is all about freedom of expression, and it has a right to free speech.
“Inxeba is not for everyone, but there are many young South Africans, particularly from the black queer community, who have every right to watch and engage with it because it reflects something of their own experience.”
Producer Elias Ribeiro also said the film was aimed at showcasing the rich untold stories of the country.
“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,” he said as quoted by heraldlive.co.za.
His biggest joy about the project is that it had started a dialogue about issues which were previously kept under wraps.
One of the film’s writers‚ Thando Mqgolozona‚ said his motivation to make the film had been to show that black men could be more than what society dictated them to be.
The Oscar short-listed movie has, however, been banned from family cinemas by South Africa’s Film and Publication Board following the uproar.
The Board on Wednesday, February 14, 2018, stated that the complaints received from traditional leaders “were largely based on the perceived cultural insensitivity and distortion of the Xhosa circumcision tradition.”
The Film and Publication Board (FPB) Appeal Tribunal has overturned the classification rating of 16 LS given to the film Inxeba – The Wound and gave it a rating of X18 with the classifiable elements of Sex, Language, Nudity, Violence and Prejudice.
— FPB (@FPB_ZA) February 14, 2018
The Board has now reclassified the film to enable it to be shown only in “designated adult premises.”
The film has basically been moved from its 16 LS classification to an X18 rating for “classifiable elements of sex, language, nudity, violence and prejudice”.
The movie was South Africa’s official entry for the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film.
Laws about same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa, and couples can legally jointly adopt children and seek out IVF and surrogacy treatments. Nevertheless, Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in South Africa still face social stigma and homophobic violence.
A national study named “Progressive Nudes” said 530,000 adult South African women and men, across all population groups, living in both rural and urban areas, and across all age groups, identify themselves as homosexual, bisexual, or gender non-conforming. The 2016 report also found that while most South Africans believe that homosexuality is immoral, gay people should be protected by the law.