Moffie: Oliver Hermanus’ Powerful Tale of Forbidden Desire in the Military, during Apartheid in South Africa

Co-written and directed by Oliver Hermanus, Moffie is a gay-themed South African-British biographical war romance.

Moffie poster.jpg

The film’s title derives from a homophobic slur in South Africa.

Based on André Carl van der Merwe’s autobiographical novel of the same name, the plot revolves around two gay men, Nicholas van der Swart and Dylan Stassen, and their struggles (both internal and external) to come to terms with their homosexuality amidst a rigid and repressive social order.

Moffie world-premiered at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, and played in other major events, but it receives its U.S. theatrical release almost two years later.

Set in 1981 South Africa, the tale centers on a gay teenager, who’s completing his compulsory military service with the South African Defense Force on the border with Angola.

South Africa’s white minority government is embroiled in conflict at its border with the Communist-led Angola.  Thus, all fit South-African white males between the ages of 17 and 60 must complete two years of mandatory military service–Conscription.

During that time, they conduct incursions into Angola, followed by annual Commando camps, both training and operational.

The Conscription applied to South African nationals, but certain groups such as British passport holders (and others with dual nationality) could seek exemption.

Nicholas has long known he is different, that there is something shameful about him that must stay hidden–and even denied. Like others, he is enlisted to defend the Apartheid regime and its culture of toxic racist machismo.

The ‘black danger’ is the real and present threat, while what is wrong with Nicholas and others like him can be rooted out, treated and cured like a cancer.

However, just when fear pushes Nicholas to accept unspeakable horrors in the hopes of staying invisible, a tender relationship with another recruit becomes as dangerous for them as enemy fire in the battlefield.

Kai Luke Brümmer as Nicholas van der Swart
Ryan de Villiers as Dylan Stassen
Matthew Vey as Michael Sachs
Stefan Vermaak as Oscar Fourie
Hilton Pelser as Sergeant Brand
Wynand Ferreira as Snyman
Hendrick Nieuwoudt as Roos
Nicholas van Jaarsveldt as Robert Fields


Directed by Oliver Hermanus
Produced by Eric Abraham, Jack Sidey

Screenplay by Oliver Hermanus, Jack Sidey, based on Moffie by Andre Carl van der Merwe
Music by Braam du Toit
Cinematography Jamie Ramsay
Running time: 99 minutes