Feature

Boni & Wes is an intimate short film set to a beautiful soundtrack and it’s the kind of local art that will have you both proud and questioning

Coming out – as any letter of the queer alphabet at any phase of your life – is one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.

Way before you have “the conversation” with friends or family, you’ve had the conversation with yourself a thousand times over. It’s an incessantly uncomfortable grappling between your head, heart and hormones.

21st century media coverage of queer culture has almost made it cool to be queer in a “gay is the new black” sort of way, but most of these stories only represent male-to-male or female-to-female relationships.

“Boni & Wes” tells a different story: the true story of Boni and Wes’ experience as an openly queer couple at a Christian all-girls school in Joburg, Wes’ coming to terms with being transmasculine and, overall, is a story of evolving love. In this story, love is blind.

The first few seconds of the film introduces us to Wes Leal, a tall, blonde-haired white boy, and Boni Mnisi, a shorter, curvier, bald black girl in an endearingly intimate way. They’re an unlikely couple, but they’re so cute together. 

It’s a fast-fuelling of teenage angst and emotions that turns into rejection for being misunderstood, and it’s a story that so many can relate to. The short film deals with behaving alongside other people’s ideas of who you are and should be, and the painful process from doubt to self-acceptance.

The film was shot over the course of a year by DOP Zenn van Zyl on both digital and 8mm formats and, edited (by Xander Vander at Strangelove) with some of Boni and Wes’ personal footage, allows for a deeply intimate and even immersive look into their journey. And it’s so beautiful to look at.

Set to a moody, introspective soundtrack designed by Rob Brinkworth, with the original score composed by Joshua Biggs, the film also features music by Nakhane and Honeymoan.

Perhaps it’s too much to unpack in eight minutes but, having played such a pivotal role in Wes’ transformation, I would’ve appreciated a deeper look into Boni’s experience of growing into an understanding that was strong enough to help Wes understand himself.

Directed by Motion City Films’ power duo, Helen & Kim, the short film won the Grand Prix at the CICLOPE Africa 2020 awards this week so there’s no better time for you to get on board and give it a watch.

At its core, it’s the true love story about two people who choose love no matter what.