23/01/2017 11:29 SAST | Updated 23/01/2017 16:46 SAST

WATCH: 'The Wound' Is A Beautiful Story About Gay Love In The Face Of Cultural Traditions

What happens when traditional beliefs and modern life come into conflict? In 'The Wound', director Jon Trengrove explores this dynamic in a traditional Xhosa initiation ceremony.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.
A film still from <i>The Wound</i>, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The director of the new film "The Wound" believes it does not exploit the Xhosa initiation ritual. Usually a closely guarded secret, John Trengove takes audiences into the experience of initiates.

"I don't believe there is anything exploitative or exposing about the culture in the film," Trengrove told The City Press newspaper, speaking about the sensitivity with which the film had to be made. He has reportedly been prepared for public outcry about the film since they started on production.

The film tells the story of the Xhosa initiation ritual and the relationships that develop between three men while undergoing the ceremony. "The Wound", made its international debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival -- making it the second South African narrative film to be screened at the festival in 39 years.

The film's trailer suggests that there may be a romantic relationship between two men -- initiation caregivers Xolani and Vija.

"I think we're actually speaking about something really important about the culture that clearly isn't being discussed enough," Trengrove said to The City Press about the nuances the film deals with.

Described as a "dynamic examination of sexuality, masculinity and the clash between traditional and contemporary African values", the film engages audiences and explores these conflicts sensitively.

"The Wound" is inspired by the novel A man who is not a man by Thando Mgqolozana and its screenplay was co-written by Mgqolozana, Malusi Bengu and Trengrove. It has been nominated in the World Dramatic category. Lead actor Nakhane Toure has already tweeted that there has been a mixed reaction to the story, with traditionalists emphasising the secrecy of the ritual.

In response, Toure told The City Press that he is not stressed anymore. "These are our stories. Sometimes when people can't relate they go to anger – it's understandable, it's their culture – but it takes a lot of individuals to make a culture."

"That film was not easy to make, you know, so what you're seeing there is a labour of love, and I'm just excited that people are going to see it," he said.

From its Sundance premiere on 22 January 2017, the film will open the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival on 9 February 2017. It will have its local premier at the Durban International Film Festival in June.