A fortuitous meeting with director Roland Emmerich and his film director, Ueli Steiger, at a Cape Town restaurant led to a friendship that changed everything. “One day Roland told me, if you can get into film school, I’ll give you a scholarship,” Hermanus said. “Somehow they saw something in me; it’s a perfect example of what it means to invest in people. ”
Hermanus went to London Film School for three years, and did the length “Shirley Adams” like his graduation film. “I was supposed to make a short film, but I brought it out,” Hermanus said. The film’s critical success in South Africa and abroad led to the invitation of a residency in Cannes, where he began working on “Beauty,” a study of a gay obsession in an Afrikaans community.
Like Hermanus’ other films, “Moffie” is the product of what he calls “forensic” preparation. He sought out the era, aided by Ramsay, who had collected images of the South African border war in the 1970s and 1980s before he was involved in the film. And the director met regularly with the actors for months, elaborating their later stories, then sent them to a boot camp for a week.
“Oliver created an environment where anything was possible because we understood our characters and that world,” Hilton Pelser, who plays the terrible Sergeant Brand, said in a video interview. “I came to understand what Brand was trying to do; in a very dark, very violent way, he tries to save his life ”.
The film, Hermanus said, is a reflection of the collapse of apartheid, the moment when the minority government launched fear and distrust because it was losing its grip. There are very few Black figures in the film, and they are all the brief subject of violence or contempt. “I wanted the film to be from the perspective of white South Africa,” Hermanus said, “and it was his reality.”