“Moffie” is set in1981, ten years before the fall of South Africa’s apartheid system. Sixteen-year-old Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) is leaving to serve his two years of military conscription required of all white men. Nicholas is gay (moffie is a derogatory word for gay in Afrikaans) and it is essential that he keeps this a secret from everyone even if he is surrounded by the homoeroticism of military training with all that horsing around in the group showers. He does have one lovely moment of tenderness with a fellow gay recruit Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) who is more “out” than Nicholas and pays dearly for it.
Horrific incident in a restroom
However, the film tends to shy away from any potential relationship that might arise between these two young men. After a while Nicholas’ stoicism starts to get a little tedious and you are glad for a truly horrific flashback in which a younger Nicholas is caught looking at another boy in a restroom while on vacation with his parents.
Parallels with Apartheid
There are obvious parallels here between being gay and being Black in Apartheid South Africa (the film’s director Oliver Hermanus is Black), and this is a fresh look at the gay experience. If only Nicolas had been allowed a little more (inner) freedom!