Moffie (2019)

Director: Oliver Hermanus
Writer: Oliver Hermanus, Jack Sidey
Based on: Andre Carl van der Merwe‘s autobiographical novel
Cast: Kai Luke Brummer, Ryan de Villiers, Matthew Vey, Stefan Vermaak, Wynand Ferreira, Rikus Terblanche, Ludwig Baxter, Hendrik Nieuwoudt, Nicholas Van Jaarsveldt, Hilton Pelser
Seen on: 26.1.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, abuse / hazing, racism

It’s 1981 and Sout Africa is at war with Angola. Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) is about to start his two-year compulsory military service. He and the other recruits quickly fall into a rhythm of physical and psychological punishment and abuse – in other words, military training. Nicholas finds a friend in Sachs (Matthew Vey) whose political views make the service extra hard for him. But it is to Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) that Nicholas feels inexorably drawn. His feelings are returned, but nobody can know – the rampant homomisia in the army is everywhere and the punishment for getting caught is very harsh.

Much like its title promises – the South African version of f***ot – Moffie is a brutal film that shows us a brutal world and sugarcoating none of it. It is very good at what it does, but you have to steel yourself for it.

The film poster showing Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) in military uniform, looking straight at the camera.

I don’t have much to fault Moffie with – except that it is yet another gay film filled with violence against gay people, and really, haven’t we seen enough of those? That being said, of course the world still sucks for us queers, and it’s important to talk about this and to show the kind of things we faced 40 years ago – and still face today.

What the film does very well is to embed that homomisia in a broader context of toxic masculinity and how essential that masculinity is for the military in the whole. Everybody is abused here for not being “manly” enough, and homomisia is one tool that is used to hammer those boys into the shape the military wants and needs the to be. Racism and misogyny are others. The film makes that abundantly clear.

Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) in a tent with other soldiers.

I have to admit that I thought at first that Sachs would be Nic’s love interest because the film takes a lot more care to introduce Sachs than to introduce Stassen. Given the sheer volume of young men who all wear the same clothes, it took me a while to keep everybody straight, no pun intended, and Stassen almost flew under the radar until things heated up between him and Nic.

The ending of the film was frustratingly open, showing that the damage caused by the military and its homomisia can’t be undone so easily. But I choose to go with a hopeful interpretation.

Other than that, the film was really very good – beautifully shot, with a great, expressive soundtrack and a good cast, it kept me engaged at all times and it certainly touched me – which is probably the most important thing.

Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) during a drill exercise.

Summarizing: very good.

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