Cannes-winning South African film maker Oliver Hermanus is planning to use his next film to explore military conscription and how it shaped white masculinity during apartheid. By Vukile Dlwati
Hermanus describes his still-untitled movie as a coming-of-age story of the different characters, with a focus on hypermasculinities, racial identity and how young men assumed their place in society.
“It is about how white South African men have been made over a century. Apartheid had a great deal of indoctrination which taught white South Africans what to believe, support and reject,” he says. He intends to address the social construction of white South African males.
He explains that white South Africans have had to reject many things, including homosexuality, communism and weakness during the course of their upbringing.
The film will focus on a character called Nicholas and his lived experience. It will be set in rural KwaZulu-Natal and be produced by two-time Oscar-winner Eric Abraham.
Nicholas will be a sensitive young man growing up in the early 1980s, during the time South Africa was waging war in Angola.
He is conscripted into the army for two years and is fearful of what to expect there. He has heard many stories about men going to the army, their unsavoury experiences and the violence they encounter.
This will not be the first time Hermanus uses film to confront social norms and heteronormative ideals.
Seven years ago, the film Skoonheid (Beauty) won a Queer Palm D’Or, a prize that recognises movies that deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues, at the Cannes Film Festival.
Skoonheid challenges sexual orientation in a conservative context.
Francois van Heerden, a married middle-aged Afrikaner man, finds himself infatuated with Christian Roodt, a university student.
The film deals with forbidden love in their society and shows how Francois struggles to express himself fully because of cultural, traditional and heterosexual standards and pressures.
Hermanus told City Press this week that auditions for the role of Nicholas would take place next month.
They will be looking for any male with acting experience between the ages of 16 and 20, because they seek new talent.