Monday, April 12, 2021

Moffie, a gay military drama in South Africa during the apartheid

Moffie is a 2019 South African-British biographical war romantic drama film co-written and directed by Oliver Hermanus. The plot revolves around two gay characters Nicholas van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) and Dylan Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) who attempt to come to terms with their homosexuality.

The film is based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by Andre Carl van der Merwe. The film had its world premiere release at the Venice International Film Festival on 2019. It also had its special screenings at other film festivals and received several nominations in various categories.

“Moffie” is Afrikaans slang for “faggot,” and the film attempts a bold gesture in reclaiming epithet as an emblem of power. It’s 1981, South Africa, which means it’s not okay to be a “moffie”; effeminacy is a sign of weakness, and being gay is also illegal. It’s also a moment of compulsory military conscription that all (white) boys over the age of 16 must endure, and so that means, as the film begins, Nicholas is readying to ship off to defend colonized land. 

On its face, the war is between the white minority government and Angola, whose Communism the South African Defense Force wants to stop from spreading; but really, the atrocities as seen inflicted in this movie are governed by the power-seeking regime of Apartheid, and not any real threat.

Nicholas is a melancholic who’s clearly hiding a secret, but just barely. When two of his comrades who engaged in homosexual activity are trotted out before the brigade, a bloodied cautionary tale for all to see, Nicholas retreats further into the closet. But during a rainy night, passion awakens in the trenches as a spiteful commander orders the men to stay down in the ground, which brings him literally closer to Dylan. An erotic attraction is sparked, but a relationship never quite sizzles as both remain, by the powers of the social hegemony, in the closet.

Watch the trailer below:

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