thewoundFollowing the announcement that Inxeba (The Wound) has been selected as South Africa’s official entry for the Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Foreign Language Film, the film has been called ‘offensive’ by the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders.

“It is upsetting to us, the film team, as much care was taken to craft a sensitive narrative which, while it provokes important conversations, also respects the secrecy of the depicted ritual,” says Elias Ribeiro, producer of Inxeba. “In researching and developing Inxeba, we drew on the talents of our respected Xhosa collaborators, including co-writers Thando Moqgolozana and Malusi Bengu, and principal actors Nakhane, Niza Jay and Bongile Mantsai. In addition, all actors who appear on screen are native Xhosa speakers with first-hand experience of the initiation ritual. At every turn, we made sure that the authenticity of what we were depicting was respected.”

As Milisuthando Bongela, commented in her review of the film in the Mail & Guardian in July, following the screening at the Durban International Film Festival, where Inxeba received the awards for Best South African Director and Best Actor: “More than being just an expository foray into a culture’s sacred rites and rituals, award-winning South African film Inxeba (The Wound) is a love story that tenderly breaks new ground on more fronts than expected.”

Co-producer Batana Vundla was recently misquoted when a statement he had made months ago in reference to boycott threats was linked to the alleged unrest amongst Xhosa traditional leaders over the Oscars entry. “The recent statements attributed to me in Caxton-owned media outlets are unfortunately misleading and inaccurate. At no stage have I said the Xhosa king is homophobic or that we are delaying the opportunity for him, or any representative, to view the film. I look forward to the opportunity to engage with traditional leaders and royal representatives,” Vundla says.

During August and September, a number of open community screenings were organised by Urucu Media, the production company responsible for making Inxeba. The film was screened in various settings across Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and the East London.

“In order to address the hate speech on social media, we found it important to screen the film in several locations so that people could express their opinions from an informed position,” says producer Cait Pansegrouw. “I attended multiple screenings in Khayelitsha and Langa in Cape Town, and it was encouraging to witness the conversations initiated by the film firsthand. However people may have felt about the film going in, after watching Inxeba we were able to have a meaningful dialogue about it and the themes the film presents.”

Various academic institutions have also shown interest in the film. Thus far, it has been screened for Wits University’s Anthropology department and as part of the annual ‘Sex Actually Festival and Conversations’, run by Drama for Life at the Wits School of the Arts. Most recently, Harvard University expressed interest in including the film in its upcoming Social Anthropology course. The film’s screenplay, written by Trengove, Mgqolozana and Bengu, has also been invited to be submitted to the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in the United States.

The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) has set up a screening of the film for representatives from the House of Traditional Leaders. It will take place on Friday, 6 October, and will be followed by a dialogue between the NFVF, the representatives and members of the film team. Urucu Media is also in the process of setting up a screening in Port Elizabeth, to which representatives of the Xhosa Royal Family have been invited.

Inxeba will release nationwide in South Africa in February 2018.

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david alex wilson

Mad Moth Communications

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