Kai Luke Brummer in "Moffie". Picture: Daniel Rutland Manners
Kai Luke Brummer in "Moffie". Picture: Daniel Rutland Manners

‘Moffie’ looks at queer identity and masculinity

By Jamal Grootboom Time of article published Mar 13, 2020

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"Moffie" is directed by Oliver Hermanus, and while is cinematically beautiful, it feels underdeveloped.

Rating 3.5/5

Based on a novel by André Carl van der Merwe of the same name, "Moffie" is set in 1981 and presents the story of Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) during his compulsory military service with the SANDF as he struggles with his sexuality.

When it comes to how "Moffie" is shot, the cinematographer Jamie Ramsay does a stellar job of creating a mood with visuals. "Moffie" is a feast for the eyes, and Ramsey really tells a story with the way the movie is presented on screen.

Hermanus’ direction is also something to behold with the choices he made for the actors and how the screenplay flows.

It is initially very triggering hearing the k-word being thrown around, but it is needed, to give an accurate depiction of the era this film is set in.

The script overall doesn’t only address queer identity, but also looks at toxic masculinity, misogyny, and how compulsory military service affected these men’s emotional intelligence. However, the overall story doesn’t hit the landing.

I realise this is based on a true story, but there must have been a way to adapt it without leaving the audience feeling unsatisfied.

The dialogue, especially, leaves much to be desired. We get very little from our main protagonist and Brummer is left to convey most of the character’s feeling through eye acting. This left me not connecting with Van der Swart by the end of the film - and I’m a gay man.

While I am glad that we have more South African queer cinema coming to the forefront, I’m starting to reach my limit when it comes to only seeing cisgender white gay male-centric stories being told. South Africa has such a rich queer history especially when it comes to people of colour. It would be nice to stories that also given the same opportunity to be told for a wider audience. 

Overall, I still think "Moffie" is worth the watch. Hermanus took a derogatory gay slur and made an insightful piece of artwork.

*"Moffie" opens in South African cinemas on March 13. 

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