Inxeba: The Wound [Film Review]

DISCLAIMER: POSSIBLE SPOILERS!!

I knew about Inxeba: The Wound long before I even watched the film. I’ve been quite verbal about my feelings towards it and the banning/the censorship on my Socials. I watched the film yesterday on Putlocker, since I couldn’t afford to go to the cinema and show solidarity. This is my two cents’ worth. There has never been a more talked about production such as this in the history of South African film and cinema. I do stand to be corrected.

My decision to review the film wasn’t my own, to be quite honest. I love controversy, my very being is a controversy to both myself and those around me. However I feared for myself and a possible career I hope to create from my writing, because well, writing something – anything – on this film could either make or break this little blog of mine.

Tell you what, please go watch the film. I will leave possible links that will lead you to sites on line where you can stream the film. It is magic, and I will not be talking about the Xhosa culture much, because it is a highly sensitive topic and as usual, topics that lead to conflict often need one to be politically correct, and I am not Xhosa – I would not want to be caught dead arguing with someone about their culture. I mean, surely the culture does not have to overshadow the fact that this is a great film. While yes, the culture of ulwaluko may be at the epicentre of this story, it is a story nonetheless about two men who are in love and have to navigate their feelings towards one another and their sexual insecurities in a hypermasculine setting.

Written by John Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bhengu, Inxeba serves as Trengove’s directorial debut and quite a great one at that, having cemented him in the grasps of history when it comes to thought-provoking storytelling. The film gave me similar feels as when I first watched Brokeback Mountain. The fact that they both are set in a mountain and are about two men who fall in love and have to question what they knew and understood to be masculinity is beyond me.

Released in South African cinemas on the 2nd of February, the film tells the story of factory worker, Xolani Radebe (played by the magnificent Nakhane Mavuso, previously known as Toure) who returns to his home in the Eastern Cape to assist the men of his village with overseeing the initiation customs in the mountains. While there Xolani has to look after a rather defiant young initiate from the city, Kwanda (played by Niza Jay Ncoyini), who is in every sense of the word MY SPIRIT ANIMAL!! While Kwanda at times proves to be quite antagonistic to the pending love that is shown to exist between Xolani and another mentor by the name of Vija, it is people like him that ought to be given the shine for being the mouthpieces that would later work to dismantle this vile societal creature known as patriarchy.

Within the first fifteen minutes it becomes obvious that there is a connection between Vija and Xolani, at first not so spoken of. And that is what I loved the most. This connection that the two have becomes established in the littlest of ways, from the smiles, the looks, and the not so subtle sexual scenes. That first sex scene, HOT! Left me all hard and bothered. In this hypermasculine space, two men who each have formulated their own understanding of what it means to be a man and have grown to actually embody the teachings of the talks they were given during their own time in the mountain, it becomes obvious that the two of them are just as much victims of patriarchy as the next person who shall be initiated, as Brett Pardy states that the two men have subsequently grown into their roles and understood that sometimes it is not always about being dominant, but rather submitting themselves to ‘a patriarchal model that demands heterosexuality.’ Vija represents the man’s man, a manly man, it is shown in how he carries himself, married with kids – probably the type that prefers his wife seen and not heard. Whereas Xolani may appear to be on the fence. What do I mean by ‘on the fence’, I don’t know. To be quite honest, I do not relate in the bit with either Xolani or Vija in any sense, if not for the fact that being Queer is a constant fight, especially when our loves are tested. I will get more in depth with this when I conclude this and link up to the ending. Gosh, that ending.

Throughout the whole film I had my hand on my mouth with shock and worry. Mind you, I was in the computer labs on campus, so with everything happening around me, there was also this load of WHOA! What stood out for me the most was Kwanda’s fighting spirit and sense of agency, and I speak for myself when I say that he made the film what it was for me with his questioning and defiant nature. He is the one person who sees Vija and Xolani for what they truly are.

Ndiyak’bona uk’ba uyintoni.  Kutheni wena ungafuni ukuyivuma lonto?                            – Niza Jay Ncoyini as Kwanda                                                                                                                                 

He has this fire that many Queer teenagers forced to submit to oppressive traditions do not possess, and does not show any sign – from the get-go – of ever wanting to conform. Such passion and rebellion is taken to the next level when he makes this tradition his own, seeing how he may have failed at beating the system he then can bend it to his worth when he wears that nose ring. We all have our own ways of rebelling, some bolder than others. I still relay how I wish, even in the slightest of ways, that I had Kwanda’s fighting power, that voice and un-defeatist power.

Taking away all that nudity, the violent language and homophobia, despite it all, the bullshit and patriarchy, and hypermasculinity, I genuinely believe that Vija loved Xolani. I mean, Xolani may want companionship. He wants Vija to want him, too. To fight for him – to be in love with him so much that he defies it all, to risk it all. Isn’t that what everyone else wants, to be honest?

MV5BNjcyYTY3ZmYtOGJkNS00OTEyLTg3Y2QtZjA5ZWUyMTM2MzEzL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDYxMjcxMQ@@._V1_A silhouette of Vija, played by Bongile Mantsai. Photo from IMDb 

Even before it started showing in South Africa, Inxeba was already a vastly spoken about topic – there have been marches, it continues to trend on Socials, and it has been banned in many cinemas across the country and the Eastern Cape does not even want a whisper of it. I watched an interview last night from ANN7 whereby the writers of the film, Malusi Bhengu and John Trengove, were in a panel with some representatives from conservative groups that are against the film – to say the least, Malusi did not get much word out with the guy next to him quick to point out that the film is disrespectful and portrays the Xhosa culture in a negative way. He later goes on to add that he has nothing against the Queer community – which baffles me. Would the film be as offensive to people if it had been a heterosexual love story? For me, I feel as though all this Hu-ha would not even exist had it not been for the fact that the film is Queer and in that Queer space is the Xhosa culture of initiation, which judging by all the noise is supposedly exclusive of Queer people. It makes them feel as though by the fact that Vija, an Alpha masculine man, has sex WHILE IN THE MOUNTAINS with another man, is dismissive of the fact that by going to the mountain one comes back a man – that Queer men are not men. That could be what they are taught there that they hopelessly wish to hang on to. We honestly shouldn’t allow men, or whomever is against the film for whatever reason, to censor us and dictate what we should and shouldn’t watch. My two cents, don’t judge me.

The highlights for me, where Kwanda is concerned, was when he refused to speak. And when he almost – might have – dismantled all that they may have been taught to be manhood and entitlement on that mountain when he confronted Zuko about what his Father could be getting up to – that he disappears for a week, sleeps around and when he does decide to come home he expects to have food waiting on the table, with his wife smiling as she tends to his needs. Zuko is an archetypal entitled piece of shit. Moreover, the Xhosa culture, while on that mountain, does not acknowledge Queerness, not does it defend against homo/Queerphobia – in fact, they do not even show any signs of confronting it. Which was rather funny because one of the panelists, a Mr. Azania Matiwane, reckoned that it ought to be the Queer/LGBT community that condemns this film because it will endanger our lives. Whether a threat or a voice of concern, I feel as though representation of Queer people should not bother people so much. We are humans, too.

In conclusion, that ending. Jesus Christ, that ending. I might ruin the film for many people who haven’t watched it by embedding the video I got off YouTube of the ending – and I apologise. It is a necessary evil.

As already stated, I do not feel compassion for people like Vija, except the fact that he might be Queer and is trapped in that systemic oppression at the hands of society and how he feels they will view him. Vija attacking Zuko and forcing him to apologise to Xolani could either be the most spontaneously romantic and daring thing ever, or the most dumbest, I don’t care. That part is *SNAPS* for me. After a very heated love making session in the river under the love of the waterfall, Vija and Xolani pass out and Kwanda sees them. Feeling disrespected and afraid of what Kwanda might say, Vija runs after him, setting the film towards a climactic ending. Dear Vija, would you rather choose satisfying other people’s perception of you as opposed to living your life the way you wish to?

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The film may have sparked outrage, but the fact remains that it is by far an authentic portrayal of how most people feel when it comes to love and sexual desires in a masculine and/or hypermasculine setting, and the way that the majority of people reacted to it without having even seen the film in the first place goes to show just how films like this are needed to start a conversation.

I was really conflicted between embedding the YouTube video of the ending to the film and not doing so. I feel as though I have already divulged so many spoilers, and I sincerely apologise for such a passionate review. I hope that you find the film as fulfilling as I did – ey, but that ending.

Watch the film, and tell me what you think on my Socials (@RileyHlatshwayo on Twitter, Insta and Facebook).

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Thoughts on Tuesday

Hey everyone. I know that it has been a while since I have published anything. While being a final year student is nothing to write home about, the stress of ‘Failure is not an option’ is what makes me feel rather demotivated to put something up.

I promise you, though, I am working on something big. And it is coming to you soon. A great announcement – I have finished writing my first novel and am proud of it. I will also be writing something about it soon – not a snippet, publishers are against that.

Meanwhile, I am so in love with this Sam Smith song. Have a great day.

  • Riley Hlatshwayo ❤

Thirteen Reasons Why Is Somewhat A Trigger.

DISCALIMER (01): I PUBLISHED A RANT EARLIER LAST MONTH ON WHY I HATE THE MONTH OF DECEMBER. THIS IS A CONTINUATION WITHIN A REVIEW.

SPOILERS: THE SERIES IS TOLD IN THE POINT OF VIEW OF A GIRL NAMED HANNAH BAKER. THE THIRTEEN REASONS ARE WHY SHE’S DEAD.

I trust that you all had a Merry Christmas.

I know that it has been a while since I posted anything up, and I have no excuse for that. Yet! I have just been a bit demotivated and feeling overwhelmingly insecure. My friends are graduating next year – while I am extremely happy for them, I have this innate feeling of failure. We started off together, and we’re supposed to be graduating together. But then I, being me, and my overzealousness I kept changing dreams and there goes my graduation. F*ck!

Anywho.

I wrote a suicide letter back then when, with very little intentions of actually utilising it. And I found it while I was going through my stuff recently. And I have been thinking about it a lot lately. The idea was to come up with reasons as to why I would suddenly decide to end my life, and quite as I had originally figured upon the penning of it down nothing came to mind. To be honest, I had a shitty High School experience, and home was no better, but I still did not know what to write. That was all before the anxious feelings and thoughts of failure became a constant occurrence – before the mild depression. Having grown up a bit from then, I have decided to open up about the reason why I don’t think I would ever have the strength to commit suicide; I’m vain, and I fear pain.

I questioned the extent to which I would even begin contemplating my own demise, highlighting the grotesque harshness that life has finally trapped me in. I couldn’t fathom any hardship to hold so important that it would lead me towards the pills, the noose or the razor blade. I wrote about how depression scares me. Depression is real, and in speaking like this it seems as though I am invalidating the extent of other people’s problems; the people who actually find them too unbearable to take and end up deciding, upon breaking point, that dying is better than living. Or at least, at that time, it seems.

The television series, Thirteen Reasons Why (stylised as TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY), debuted on Netflix on the 31st of March this year, and was one of those annoying constantly-in-your-face adverts on YouTube with this equally annoying voice getting through you saying ‘Hey, this is Hannah Baker…’


[Picture of Hannah Baker leaning against a locker. Photo courtesy of Netflix.]

JUST A QUICK DISCLAIMER (02): THIS IS BASICALLY MY OPINION ON THE SERIES, AND SHOULD IN NO WAY ENFORCE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FILM, AND DEPRESSION ENTIRELY.

I loved the general thought behind the series, and I have not as yet read the book by Brian Yorkey, but from what I can gather online – the critics say it is a pretty great book. Kudos. My greatest judgment and what would later show to have me quite distant and reserved when it came to speaking out about the production was how everything that happened to Hannah – or the things that she did, things that led to the finale where she (SPOILER ALERT!!!) kills herself are meant to be caused by someone else’s actions. According to a description on Wikipedia, Hannah is ‘a girl who committed suicide after suffering [from] a series of demoralising circumstances brought on by select individuals at her school.’ Basically, what I am trying to say is, the tapes made it seem as though everyone was responsible for Hannah’s suicide – everyone BUT Hannah. I am not saying this to dismiss and/or invalidate her depression or, by the lack of apprehension, the causes and triggers for it, but there needed to be some breathing space for the other characters where they were pardoned or overlooked. Again, I am not an apologist, and such should not even be thought of in that manner. The series portrayed everyone as the instigators, and Hannah, as flawed as she was, the helpless victim. Something she was clearly not from the very first episode.

The show itself is a trigger, for some of us.

Depression is something I have struggled with as well, however not as extensively and fatally as most people. For me, it is usually long and dreaded moments of sadness that just come from nowhere and I accept them because there is no way for me to talk to anyone about them. I am always by myself. I lock myself in my room watching films and series, on Socials – practically closed off from the physical world. My sisters reckon I have an asocial demon inside of me. I could take that. It’s a theory I can live with.

Having never been diagnosed before, the closest being online quizzes I take online which all seem to point out the same thing that there are many causes and symptoms of depression and anxiety, stress being the leading. So, I just pass it off as being tired, and moody. To be quite honest, I can accept that, too. There was a tweet one time that said, being happy and suddenly sad the next second doesn’t mean you have bipolar stfu! At least, that is what my family says when I am down or going through an episode. ‘[S]he is having one of [her] moods again.’ They say. Perhaps, one day, JUST ONE DAY, I will gain the strength to finally end it. I pray that it never gets worse, or reaches a point where I cannot hold it in, when it is unbearable, whereby the only way I can feel better is by killing myself.

I have had friends, on two occasions, who have attempted suicide because of depression – the real kind, the kind that I have no personal experience with. But then, to be quite honest, I do not know what kind it is or was because everything in this world – our experiences, anyway – is relative. The closest I have ever gotten to suicidal thoughts was back in 2014 and 2016, the causes were utterly financial. I had just passed my twelfth grade and was awaiting on my university applications to get back to me. I was a very easily excitable and impressionable person, so you can understand my disappointment when I received an SMS rejecting my application to join their Diploma in Journalism programme. If I have to be honest, I was not as hopeful about that one. I had sent the application late, after all the entrance tests and interviews had already been conducted. I suppose I was hopeful, and journalism has always been a dream of mine. It’s safe to say that that dream has sort of changed, so no trainsmash on that part. That was silence for months after that. No letter. No SMS. I was so certain I would stay be at home for the whole of that following year regardless of my good grades. I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep, let alone eat. It became even worse whenever I saw a status update on Socials from my peers and former classmates expressing their joys of having been accepted for a certain course or degree, while I still waited. Similar to how I felt a week ago when the ‘Degree Completed’ statuses came out on Student Central, and everyone was posting their screenshots.

I was prepared to kill myself, but scared still.

The second was when I finally did receive a letter of acceptance at my current university. I was over the moon, regardless of the knowledge that I had no way of knowing where I was going to get the money to pay the fees. It was all fun and games the first few months, I mean, there was still time and I was hoping that my family would surprise me by actually offering to pay without me having to ask them. They didn’t.

I even took a job. My first job, and I may have mentioned it here. And it was a horrible first time I experience. But I had no choice. Needless to say, none of the money I got from working there was enough to cover the registration fees. Auntie had to borrow money from the church to pay it.

The month of December comes with a burden of unwanted memories, and sits them right in front of me at the table and forces me to own up. Owning up means I have to relinquish my serenity, and I do not have that in abundance to begin with.

Sometimes I wish dying was easy, but then at the same time I want to live. I have such potential, and I want to see myself succeed. I want to get my Gran and my brothers away from the township. I want to have kids someday, a husband – my own family. That won’t be possible for me when I’m dead, will it?

P.S. I will be watching TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY again for my in-depth review which I will try to publish before the end of this month. This was supposed to be one, but apparently my inner demons are too powerful they took over.

No Angel

Our love story had Satan’s handwriting

come to think of it, we were doomed to fail

Remembering all the lies we were telling

How sad, how wrong,

so lost and frail We needed some human confirmation that we were living

Breathing, a belonging

A dog chasing its tail

Purpose

Our love was a re-run of Delilah meets Samson,

the worst pair under the sun

But we played the parts so well, With the angels against us I could tell it wasn’t going to end well,

All these false promises of a future we knew would never come.

To blame you would be a sin,

I am no angel myself

I never was and I gave up trying to be because I could see through your façade just as well as you could see through mine

We were doomed to fail

And so we did.

To say I saw it coming is an insult

I knew you were no angel yet I still played along.

Her

I make a better shadow than her,

Watching you as you kill me with your bright smile

She may be perfect,

She may be your other half, the partner I would never be But I know you I am hollow, witnessing it all from afar,

Afraid to claim you as my own I should be the one whose hand you’re holding

Not her

What does she have that I don’t?

Is it bcos she is obedient? And I am a raging storm that cannot be tamed,

Does her precious pink excite you more than my basic black?

She is the calm of the storm

While I

A flame threatening to obliterate everything in its direction

You are my all

I will kill for your touch

I will kill her for your feel

I will skin her alive, just to hear her scream out your name

Her pain will be my siren’s song

Wear her body as my own

Just to feel your fingertips running traces on her perfect tan

I will kill her,

you know I can I have loved you assiduously for a long time now Acknowledge me I have fought the tides trying to get to you

I have killed time to be your perfect someone

All she had to be was herself,

And you turned back and saw her smile

I smiled, too

Why can’t you see me?

Riley Mtshali on Black Excellence

Essential Conversations

Q:How would you define Black Excellence?


A: I suppose, for me, it’s defeating the odds. Going beyond what we as a people couldn’t back in the days. It is releasing your inhibitions and actually excelling at it. Using the little you have to come up with something better, to fight, a movement for us, by us.
Q: Do you fit this definition?

A: I would like to believe that, yes. I am trying my best to be the best that I can be, so that I can actually embody this safe space I hope to create for other people like myself. I’m representing.

Q: Who do you look up to in terms of Black Excellence?

A: There are so many people I can actually mention, “Omigod”. So I will resort to two. One being Nakhane Mavuso, previously known as Nakhane Toure. He is a musician, an author and has recently…

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A Penny for your Thoughts.

1

Ever woken up sad and angry bc you had wasted your tears on a man? A useless man, probably. How you hate going to bed angry, yet you did. How you allow regret to caress you, if not to pour cold water on your sleeping face, forcing you into wakefulness. How you have betrayed your own heart, lamenting to poisonous Nina Simone infused tears, and Etta James battle cries. How all of this could have been avoided.

Ever woken up feeling worthless? You feel tamed. You fear looking into the mirror bc you do not know if it shall be kind enough to show you the Beast that you are, or the cowering silent minx he has turned you into with his broad back. You are a Beast, and if he has the audacity to walk away from such a marvel, allow him. Watch him. Do not wave goodbye, but gesticulate in rejoice.

People fear natural disasters bc they force them to change. You must embrace the disaster you are. The disaster I am, I have embraced it, and it has paved way to meandering valleys, rivers that were once obstructed by man-made concrete jungles.

Step aside and watch him as he walks away. Better yet, help him. Open the door for him.

How all this pain could have been avoided. How the tears would not even matter had they been your own. They are reminders of how he left you there. Let them fall. He will never meet someone like you, and perhaps that is a good thing. You are an anomaly, something he couldn’t handle bc he did not know how, so he did what experience has shown him to be an easy way out. He took the way out. He feared the Beast that lingered inside you, and he did not know when it would come out. He did not know how to pacify it, to tame it. So he ran.

Do not force him to stay.