Cape Town - Multi-award-winning South African film Inxeba (The Wound) has come under fire for its subject matter.
Described by Variety magazine as "a milestone in South African cinema", the film stars musician and novelist Nakhane Touré as Xolani, a lonely factory worker who joins the men of his community in the mountains of the Eastern Cape to initiate a group of teenage boys into manhood.
A small group of individuals have launched online attacks and threats directed at the cast and crew of the film via social media.
They have taken exception to the film’s setting against the backdrop of Xhosa initiation rites. There are also concerns that much of the criticism of the film – levelled by individuals who have not actually seen the film, and who are refusing to do so despite being given the opportunity by the filmmakers – is the result of hatred motivated by homophobia.
The South African Constitution not only protects individuals’ rights to freedom of speech, but also outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation.
“We view these inexcusable threats in a serious light, and we will be taking appropriate action against any individual who threatens violence or commits homophobic hate crimes,” says producer Cait Pansegrouw, of Urucu Media.
“Inxeba has attracted much interest from the South African public, many of whom are eagerly anticipating its local release. From the feedback we receive daily on the film’s Faacebook page, it is clear that the people attempting to shut the film down are speaking on behalf of a minority, and do not represent the ‘entire Xhosa nation’ as they claim.
"Inxeba was filmed in isiXhosa and is a proudly South African film that has drawn much praise from audiences around the world,” she adds.
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"It is a story that focusses on the complex relationship between traditional patriarchy and LGBTQ identity, issues which we believe are essential to speak about in contemporary South Africa. While we respect the decision of anyone who chooses not to watch ‘Inxeba’, we are fiercely committed to protecting the rights of South Africans who choose to view it, and make up their own minds about the value and integrity of the film."
Musician and actor Nakhane Touré, who plays the lead in the film, has received several violent threats, including that of being burnt alive.
"People have jumped to conclusions about a film they haven't even seen. I speak as a Xhosa man who has been to initiation, and who is proud to have done so, when I say that no secrets are revealed. What is being revealed instead, is a violent homophobia.
"Those issuing threats are nowhere to be seen when Xhosa initiates are sexually assaulted during initiation. Where are you madoda when babies are raped in our communities? Where is your anger when women are raped and murdered? The answer is nowhere. Instead, you choose to attack an important and insightful film that I do not for a single moment regret being part of."
The filmmakers are inviting interested individuals to watch the film and will be engaging with the appropriate stakeholders and representatives over the next few weeks to inform the debate.