LA FABRIQUE AT CANNES – John Trengove, “The Wound”

(part of a multi-article series about the 2014 Fabrique des Cinémas program at the Cannes Festival)

THE PITCH: In “The Wound” sexual taboos within traditional culture are shattered when three people are forced to hide their true feelings.

Sexuality and man’s tendency to pervert it, either through religion or politics, is one of your topics of concern. Can you describe the curiosity factor?
This information is not quite accurate. My film, “The Wound,” is a coming-of-age drama set in the context of the male circumcision rituals practiced by the Xhosa people of South Africa. It deals with same sex desire between men, and I am particularly interested in the collision between Western middle-class ideas about male sexuality and hyper-masculine “traditional” culture.

Which authors, filmmakers and singers would you consider as having had an influence on you?
Off the top of my head, Carlos Reygadas, Ulrich Seidl, Michael Haneke, Gus van Sant, Rolf de Heer, Michel Franco, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Nick Cave, Dolly Parton, J.D. Sallinger, Margaret Atwood, Reza de Wet, Harold Pinter, R.R Ryger, J.M. Coetzee. A very random list.

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How did your years of study at N.Y.U. and living in the Village affect you. personally, and as filmmaker? And what did you get out of the program at Cape Town?
I came from theatre and had never picked up a camera before, so N.Y.U. (New York University) was an incredible hands-on induction into filmmaking. I arrived in New York two weeks before 9/11 so it was a pretty weird time to be living there. It brought out a dark side of American culture. I found it very alienating initially.

In my opinion, Cape Town is the best place to come out of the closet in your early twenties. It’s where I did my undergrad. At UCT. I did an acting and theatre-making degree, so I guess that’s where I decided to be a director. I was tired of acting in other people’s shitty productions. I wanted to be in charge.

What was the last film that you saw and what did you think of it?
“Heli,” by Amat Escalante. I was very impressed and also quite nauseated. An unusual combination.

What was the seed for “The Wound”? 
It’s something that was in my head for a very long time, the idea of telling a gay narrative in this fascinating and secret world of the traditional male circumcision rituals. I finally acted on it when I met my co-producer, Batana Vundla, who is himself Xhosa and gay. He loved it, and I guess we developed the story as an emotional response to the growing homophobic trend throughout Africa and the fallacy that same sex desire is somehow “un-African.”


Still from “The Wound”

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