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Inxeba: The Wound poster.

Inxeba: The Wound, the stirringly powerful arthouse drama co-written by Abantu Book Festival founder Thando Mgqolozana, has been chosen as South Africa’s entry for the 2018 Oscars, in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The selection was done by a committee chosen by South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), which “applauded the film as a masterpiece in terms of script, directing and performances, which are believable and captivating.”

Focusing on the closeted relationship between two men during a Xhosa initiation ritual and exploring identity, masculinity, sexuality and loyalty, Inxeba has been hailed by City Press as “an instant classic.” It premiered on 22 January 2017 at the World Cinema Dramatic Competition of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, has screened in the Panorama section of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, and opened the 2017 Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival.

Thando Mgqolozana. Image from Mail & Guardian via Google.

The film, which runs for 88 minutes, is directed by John Trengove, produced by Elias Ribeiro and Cait Pansegrouw of Kino Lorber studio, edited by Matthew Swanepoel, and written by John Trengove, Malusi Bengu and Mgqolozana, with its cinematography by Paul Ozgur. It stars Nakhane Touré in a strong lead performance, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay Ncoyini, Siphosethu Sethsinger Ngcetane, Loyiso Lloyd N Ngqayana, Sibabalwe Esbie Ngqayana, Halalisani Bradley Cebekhulu, and Ingar Qwede.

Entering theatres in South Africa, France and Germany on 16 August 2017, Inxeba currently has a box office return of US$29,963, and has now being sold to 22 territories ahead of 2018. And it has proven to be a critical hit. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a critics’ rating of 85% and an audience score of 100%. Here is a description from the site:

Xolani, a lonely factory worker, joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood. When a defiant initiate from the city discovers his best kept secret, Xolani’s entire existence begins to unravel.

Of course the film has kicked up controversy—and even before its release. The cast members received death threats for daring to reveal the intimacy of traditional Xhosa rituals, even though the film doesn’t.

Despite this, pundits believe that, with Inxeba, South Africa has a good chance of being nominated. The only time the country won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was in 2006, for Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi (2005), adapted from the 1980 same-name novel by Athol Fugard. And it was also the only time an African language film won. South Africa has seen other nominations though, reports Channel 24: Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday in 2004, and Oliver Schmitz’s Love, Above All in 2010.

Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who Is Not a Man (2009) was longlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The Abantu Book Festival, which he founded in 2016, is held every December.

We’re hoping Inxeba: The Wound gets nominated. Congratulations to Thando Mgqolozana.

Watch the trailer:

Otosirieze is deputy editor of Brittle Paper. He is a judge for the 2018/19 Gerald Kraak Prize. He is an editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is the curator of the Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He combined English and History at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is completing a postgraduate degree in African Studies, and taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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