While Donald Trump was being inaugurated as the 45th president of the US in Washington DC, the South African film The Wound was making its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah — the first of its multiple screenings at the world's most popular independent film showcase and a springboard for future Oscar nominees. Trump's rhetoric could hardly have been in starker contrast to the ethos of The Wound.
Critics at Sundance have lauded The Wound for its courage in depicting homosexuality within the secretive Xhosa initiation ritual of ulwaluko .
It is the first feature-length film by director John Trengove, whose career spans theatre, television, documentary, commercials and short film. In 2009 he made the acclaimed miniseries Hopeville, and he directed a short based on the Xhosa initiation ceremony, The Goat, that premiered in 2014.
Trengove, who travelled with the film to Sundance last month along with the film's star, singer and writer Nakhane Touré, said it's a great validation to have the film premiere at the festival, given the challenges he faced tackling the sensitive subject matter.
"It's an uncompromising film, and many people thought we were crazy to make it. So to then bring it to a platform like this, it's amazing.
"Making a film - any film - is a lot of hard work, endless nights and months of thinking it's never going to happen, lots of blood, sweat and tears, so it's exciting to be here."
On a practical level, he acknowledged the exposure a major international film festival like Sundance provides for a South African film.
"The scope for the film is much wider, and broader now," he said. This plays into his aim for the movie - to change the way homosexual men are portrayed in African cinema.
Trengove admits he's an outsider to the complex world shown in his movie. "It was very challenging, but also very rewarding because by stepping into this space, some phenomenal collaborations took place."
He was referring to working with Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu, his co-scriptwriters, and the cast: Touré (who won best alternative album at the South African Music Awards in 2014) in his first acting role, theatre star Bongile Mantsai, and youngster Niza Jay Ncoyini.
Trengove said each had their own reason for wanting to be part of the film, fully aware it would stoke ire and contention among many South Africans — even before they saw it.
"It can't be underestimated what a big decision that was," said Trengove.
"Each has their own particular reason for doing this. I am very protective and will defend their decisions with my life."