Johannesburg - The controversial gay Xhosa initiation film Inxeba (The Wound) starring Nakhane is South Africa’s entry for next year’s 90th Academy Awards in the category of best foreign language film.
But it wasn’t an easy choice.
City Press has heard that the selection committee of film professionals organised by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) met on Tuesday evening and deliberated deep into the night, finally arriving at a decision at 02:00 on Wednesday.
Before that, they sat for three days to view the six films submitted, a bumper crop of strong local African-language films up for selection.
Many pundits believe South Africa has a viable shot at being nominated this year.
The only time South Africa has won a foreign-language Oscars honour was in 2006 with Gavin Hood’s Tsotsi.
In 2004, Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday was nominated and, in 2010, Oliver Schmitz’s Love, Above All had made the short list. Now all eyes are on Inxeba.
The NFVF’s Peter Kwele said: “The committee applauded the film as a masterpiece in terms of script, directing and performances, which are believable and captivating.
"It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in the US earlier this year – the most difficult festival to get into – and has been sold to 22 territories to date, which is evidence of its global appeal.”
However, the film has caused outrage at home, and Nakhane and other Inxeba cast members have received death threats for daring to set a film in the context of the traditional Xhosa initiation ceremony.
Traditional leaders are also up in arms, although the film does not show details of initiation, but instead a love triangle between two caregivers and an initiate.
Kwele defended the decision, saying: “It is important for the content we produce to disrupt and propel audiences to [introspection].
"The film’s focus on important aspects of our culture and traditions, while addressing topical issues of identity, masculinity and sexuality, does just that.”
In response to the news, Inxeba director John Trengove said: “We didn’t set out to make a crowd-pleasing film, so to be selected is mind-blowing.
"To be honest, this would not be a satisfying moment if it wasn’t for the overwhelming love and goodwill we received from South African audiences in the past few weeks.”
During it’s limited run on circuit this past week, audiences have raved about Inxeba. It will open for a full run early next year.
Watch the trailer here:
Two other favourites
Top local films must run for at least a week to qualify for the Oscars. The other two favourites for the Oscar submission also screened this week.
They included western thriller Five Fingers for Marseilles and Vaya, a powerful story about homelessness.
Five Fingers has been showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, garnering rave reviews.
It was announced this week that its creators, director Michael Matthews and writer Sean Drummond, have signed with powerful international talent agency WME.
Their next film is a fantasy set in Cape Town called Apocalypse Now Now.
Meanwhile, it was also announced this week that South African actress Thuso Mbedu has been nominated for an International Emmy Award – best performance by an actress – for her role as Winnie on Mzansi Magic’s drama Is’thunzi.
The awards take place on 20 November.
(Photo: Supplied by City Press)