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The Wound” (“Inxeba”), the powerful debut of helmer John Trengove, is South Africa’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar race.

An unflinching examination of sexuality, masculinity and cultural identity set against the backdrop of the traditional Xhosa initiation ceremony, the movie was selected by the National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF) last week. The news was reported in South Africa’s City Press on Sunday.

The selection committee lauded the film “as a masterpiece in terms of script, directing and performances,” according to the NFVF’s Peter Kwele, who added that the film’s sale in 22 territories so far is “evidence of its global appeal.”

Following its world premiere in Sundance, the efilm opened the Panorama section of this year’s Berlinale. “The Wound” was co-written by Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana and Malusi Bengu, and stars Nakhane Touré, an acclaimed musician and novelist making his acting debut, along with Bongile Mantsai and Niza Jay Ncoyini.

With its daring exploration of the taboo world of Xhosa initiation rites, which are traditionally off-limits to outsiders, the film has sparked controversy in South Africa, where the Xhosa king lobbied for a boycott of the film before its release.

Trengove acknowledged that the movie “steps into some difficult terrain,” noting that “telling a story about same-sex desire in such a sacred traditional context has been extremely triggering for some.” But he said that, “since local audiences have actually had a chance to see the film, the amount of anger and vitriol has largely been replaced by passionate dialogue.”

Trengove said he hoped the film’s Oscar submission “would encourage other local filmmakers to take bigger risks and express something of our uniquely South African experience.” Previous South African selections that made the Oscar short-list are “Yesterday” (2005) and the 2006 Oscar winner “Tsotsi.”

Also last week, Kenya selected “Kati Kati” as its submission for the foreign-language race. Produced by Tom Tykwer’s Kenyan shingle, One Fine Day Films, it marks the feature directorial debut for Mbithi Masya, a member of Kenya’s acclaimed alternative house-funk trio, Just a Band.