Even Birds are Chained to the Sky

Moffie

Director: Oliver Hermanus

Cast: Kai Luke Brummer, Ryan de Villiers, Hilton Pelser, Matthew Vey, Stefan Vermaak, Wynand Ferreira

Please note this film is mostly in Afrikaans with English Subtitles

After premiering at the prestigious 2019 Venice International Film Festival and then going on to be shown at the London Film Festival among many other international film festivals including Marrakesh, Rotterdam and Palm Springs, South African director of Skoonheid, Oliver Hermanus successfully deconstructs patriarchy in his powerful and controversial new film Moffie set in Apartheid South Africa during compulsory military conscription in 1981 when the government at the time was fighting the communist regime in Angola known as the border war. Moffie opens in South African cinemas on Friday 13th March 2020.

Heavily influenced by queer film director Tom Ford, Moffie is a superb film expertly exploring the concepts of male sexuality in a war zone.

Director Oliver Hermanus threads a delicate tale of unrequited love between two military scabs or new army recruits Dylan Stassen played by Ryan de Villiers and the central character Nicholas Van der Swart beautifully played by the gorgeous Kai Luke Brummer.

During a strenuous basic training sequence whereby the new army recruits are left in some deserted part of Southern Africa and have to survive in a trench together over night, de Villiers and Van der Swart find an awkward solace by recognizing each other’s mutual desire.

What makes Moffie so emotionally powerful is that unlike in Skoonheid, Hermanus does not resort to the explicit but more towards what could have been as de Villiers and Van der Swart have to each endure their own personal journey in an extremely toxic masculine environment fraught with fear, aggression and a double-edged comradery between the young army recruits.

Viewers must watch this film as a historical piece about a particularly unpleasant part of South African history pre-1994, where conservatism ruled over individualism and the military machine demonised homosexuality.

Moffie is a brutal and honest look at sexuality and war, a beautiful tale with some vivid scenes punctuated by some harsh dialogue and deeply disturbing images. Ultimately, director Oliver Hermanus has created his masterpiece, a concerted cinematic effort about the nature of being queer while exploring an unforgiving environment which does not allow for personal expression or sexual freedom.

As Stassen and Van der Swart navigate this treacherous world in which the film is set in, Stassen makes a point of inscribing their predicament: Even Birds are Chained to the Sky.

Moffie gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 and is definitely worth seeing. This remarkable piece of cinema will become a relevant discussion point in contemporary South Africa and in the wider world where queer rights are enshrined in more liberal constitutions.

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