HuffPost caught up with John Trengove, director of controversial Xhosa initiation film "Inxeba" ("The Wound"), on Monday afternoon, following the countrywide furore the film has caused since its South African opening on February 2.
Trengove explained that the crew have been preparing themselves for the uproar for the past five years, so they are unsurprised by the protests – but added that the team takes the attacks of those trying to shut the film down very personally.
Do the protests upset you?
None of this is very surprising. We always knew that is would be a possibility, so we have been preparing ourselves for this moment for five years. That's what a lot of the critics of the film don't understand – that we did a ton of research, and so were aware that there would be a blowback. At the same time though, it remains a bumpy ride. We are incredibly passionate, and proud of the film we have made. Everyone is entitled to protest the film, but when it comes to people shutting down the film, we really take it personally.
What has actually happened? I've seen some protests, but it's hard to tell the extent.
There have been protests all over, but the most significant one has been at a mall in East London. People working for the cinema have been threatened – physically intimidated – and it led to the shutdown of a few of the screenings. But things are now back to normal at most of the cinemas, so distribution is going strong again. Most people who want to see the film have a place they can do it.
How has the film actually done at the box office? I saw it opened at number five.
Incredibly well, but this is something I need to emphasise – these protests could not be a better PR for the film. They are giving us more attention and publicity than we would ever have been able to afford for ourselves. They have sent more people to the cinemas than we could have ever managed with our tiny budget.
What has the response been like from those who have seen it?
Really, really positive. The film has a very strong fanbase, particularly from the black queer community in South Africa. We are being inundated with requests from people who aren't able to see it – from people who would like to watch it privately, and online.
So the film is not going anywhere. It will exist everywhere for whoever wants to see it.
Has all the drama been worth it?
Absolutely. It has been unbelievably rewarding to make this film, and see the kind of reaction it's [getting]. It's unbelievable that a film can do this – that art can still do this.