“So much discrimination against queer people in Africa stems from the idea that same-sex desire is ‘un-African’.”
Hi, John! Describe the plot of The Wound in ten words.
A closeted romance ruptures during a traditional initiation into manhood.
How did the film first come about?
We started speaking to gay men who have passed through the Xhosa initiation, a secretive all-male ritual that transitions boys to men. We realised early on that there was a fascinating story to tell in this context.
Why did you think it was important to tell this story?
So much discrimination against queer people in Africa stems from the idea that same-sex desire is ‘un-African’. For this reason, it seemed meaningful to tell a story about two men in love in the context of a traditional African custom.
How was The Wound received at the London Film Festival last year?
Amazing. Winning the Sutherland trophy was a high point for the film. So many great filmmakers have won it in the past – it still doesn’t feel real! Also, the audience in London was particularly passionate and interested. We had fantastic Q&A’s after the screenings.
How did you find the brilliant star of The Wound, Nakhane Touré, and what was it like working with him?
I met Nakhane about two years before we shot the film and I was instantly a fan. I secretly started writing the lead character for him after our first meeting. I had a feeling that he would be hypnotic on camera. He’s is a fearless artist and understands intrinsically that you have to put yourself outside your comfort zone to do interesting work. He allows himself to be so vulnerable and honest in front of the camera. It’s rare to work with someone like that.
Who is your greatest cinematic influence?
Too many! Of the masters, I always come back to Fassbinder. But really, the only artist who’s ever really marked me was Bowie.
This was your first feature film, are you working on another one? And does it have a queer theme?
I guess you can say that, although the limits of what constitutes queer cinema are expanding and dissolving very quickly. For me, queer is about an outsider perspective and a subversive way of looking at familiar things.
What is your favourite queer film of all time and why?
The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My stepfather rented the VHS when I was 12 and nothing was ever the same after that.
If you could have any five filmmakers over to yours for dinner, who would they be?
Living? I guess maybe John Waters, Joao Pedro Rodrigues, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold and Abel Ferrara could make for a fun night. And Marco Dutra (my boyfriend), of course.
What actor in the world would you most like to work with?
Paul Dano. I really hope to have the chance one day.
The Wound opens at the IFI on Friday, April 27, tickets here. Watch the trailer below.
© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.