The film centres around a young gay factory worker who travels to his family’s rural village in order to undergo traditional initiation and circumcision. Male initiation has caused controversy in South Africa in recent years as many young boys have died during the process. This, combined with the topics of male masculinity, patriarchy, class and sexuality, has sparked outrage among certain traditionalist circles in South Africa.
The movie’s director John Trengove has made it very clear that they haven’t gone out to make a crowd-pleasing film. Instead, they took the topic head-on and in an uncompromising fashion. It is no surprise that this approach resonates with the judges who have to trawl through hundreds of mediocre films that play it safe.
Even though they may not have made compromises in order to please moviegoers just for the sake of it, Inxeba has been garnering rave reviews. It has also picked up two international rewards, and was selected from a record 92 entries in order to receive the shortlist status.
The movie does not court controversy for no particular reason. The topic of masculinity in South Africa is an important one, as is the well-being of young Xhosa boys who feel compelled to undergo ritual circumcision. Inxeba has received praise for its no-compromise, authentic approach to an issue critically important in contemporary South Africa.
Unless you’ve undergone traditional circumcision practices yourself, it’s unlikely that you’ll have comprehensive insight into the matter. It is a complex, layered tradition that many people have opinions about without actually gaining a deeper understanding of it. A compelling, well-made movie that’s able to take viewers deep inside a world they previously knew very little about is already a shoo-in for global recognition.
Aside from the compelling script, this is a film that’s also visually brilliant. It was shot on location in South Africa, and you’ll see all the stunning vistas and exquisite landscapes that you’ve come to expect from films from the country. But it is also shot in a manner that’s uncomfortably intimate, which adds to the tension in a remarkable manner.
There’s an authenticity to the acting that puts the finishing touches to the film. The moving portrayals have been so convincing that at times it feels as if it’s slipping into the documentary genre. The film’s cast has allegedly received homophobic threats, and they have put it all on the line to produce a powerful movie.