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Open Wound

Filmmaker John Trengove
Filmmaker John Trengove

Filmmaker John Trengove does not believe in comfortable resolutions. And after watching his debut film, THE WOUND (which opened the Panorama section), one begins to see why.

Set against the backdrop of Uk Waluka, a ritual that initiates boys into manhood within the Xhosa people of South Africa, Trengove tells a compelling story about same sex desire, one that is as disquieting as the ritual of circumcision that he opens the film with. “None of us can really know what it can mean to hide a part of yourself at all costs and the kind of violence that that can engender”, he says.

THE WOUND is about an impossible relationship between two young men of the Xhosa community recruited to be mentors of young boys who have just gone through their initiation ceremony. We discover their forbidden love story through the eyes of a boy from the city, sent to the mountains of the Eastern Cape to be turned into a man.

In more ways than one, it is this boy that serves as our entry point into the narrative. And as Trengove admits, the boy often tended to be his voice too. “I knew that same sex desire would be the lens with which I would enter the film. I’m a South African filmmaker, a queer filmmaker, but in the context of the initiation rituals, I definitely was the outsider. And I needed to embrace that fact. I think there is a lot about the ritual that I learnt gradually, but felt that it was really not my place to comment on them. What is not known about the ritual is the transformative effect it has on a lot of men. It helped to have an outsider be my voice,” says Trengove.

An alumnus of Script Station at Berlinale Talents, Trengove plans to release his film in South Africa sometime in the middle of this year and he does anticipate controversy. “The ongoing discussion on Twitter gives a sense of the kind of disparate responses the film is likely to have. It is going to be an interesting year for me”.