Initiation movie strikes out

2014-02-04 08:00

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A short film about gay identity and the horrors of botched circumcision at a Xhosa initiation school is on its way to one of the world’s leading film festivals.

iBhokhwe (The Goat) is based on the novel A Man Who is Not a Man, published by Thando Mgqolozana in 2009.

The book lifted the veil on Xhosa initiation, a brave move which was seen as breaking taboos.

The 15-minute film, directed by John Trengove, will be screened at Berlinale in Berlin next week.

Trengove has also directed TV projects like Hopeville and Intersexions, among others.

The film touches on the largely unexplored and uncomfortable intersection between gay sexuality and traditional culture.

It also explores the alienation of a young man who is abandoned by his elders during his circumcision initiation into manhood.

Trengove says iBhokhwe evolved out of research he had been doing on gay men who had been through the initiation ritual.

He says: “There was this view that once you go through the initiation, you’ll be cured of your gayness.”

In the process, he learnt that many of these gay men live double lives?–?one in the city where they are gay, and another when they go home to villages and towns in the Eastern Cape and are deeply closeted.

His research led him to Mgqolozana’s book.

The pair then collaborated to develop a chapter of the book into the short film.

They are hoping to turn it into a longer film, titled The Wound, on the same subject.

Trengove says the project started with a personal need to take a stand against the wave of homophobia that is spreading across Africa.

“I wanted to make a film that says homosexuality in Africa is as ancient as African culture,” Trengove says.

In anticipating critics who may question his right to speak about Xhosa initiation, Trengove says: “It’s my subjective view of the circumstance. I’m not Xhosa and I don’t pretend to be.”

The film stars Nkosiphendule Cengani of Rhythm City fame. He recently went through the initiation ritual himself (although he is not a gay man).

The first screening of iBhokhwe is on February 10 at Berlinale’s Generation 14plus programme, a section of the festival dedicated to films that have young people at the centre of their narrative.

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