Oliver Hermanus

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Oliver Hermanus
Born (1983-05-26) 26 May 1983 (age 37)
NationalitySouth African
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town
London Film School
OccupationFilm director, writer
Years active2009-present
Notable work
Shirley Adams, Beauty (Skoonheid), The Endless River

Oliver Hermanus (born 26 May 1983) is a South African film director and writer.[1] His films include Shirley Adams (2009), Beauty (Skoonheid) (2011), and The Endless River (2015). His film Beauty won the Queer Palm Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Hermanus was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and holds a BA in Film, Media, and Visual Studies from the University of Cape Town.[3] He initially worked as a press photographer for the Cape Argus newspaper.[3] In 2006, Hermanus received a private scholarship to attend the London Film School,[3] where he earned his master's degree in film.[4]


Shirley Adams[edit]

Hermanus's first film, Shirley Adams, released in 2009, relates the story of a single mother raising her paraplegic son, who was injured during a gang fight.[4] Hermanus has stated that he got the idea for the film from his sister, an occupational therapist, who told him the story of a teenage boy paralysed in a shooting incident.[5]

Shirley Adams premiered at the Durban International Film Festival in 2009 where the film received awards for Best South African Film, Best First Film, and Best Actress for Denise Newman.[4] The film was shown in competition at the Locarno Film Festival[6] and was also shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.[4] The film also won awards for Best Film and Best Director at the 2009 South African Film and Television Awards.[7]


Beauty (known as Skoonheid in Afrikaans) was the fifth South African movie to be selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival and the first in Afrikaans.[3] The film won the 2011 Queer Palm Award for best picture,[2] and Hermanus won the 2012 South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) for Best Director.[8] Lead actor Deon Lotz won the 2012 SAFTA for Best Actor in a Feature Film for his role in Beauty,[8] as well as Best Actor at the Zurich Film Festival.[9] Beauty was also part of the Official Selection 2011 for the Prize Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival.[10]

Beauty relates the story of François, a married, closeted, middle-aged Afrikaner, who becomes obsessed with a handsome young lawyer, Christian (played by Charlie Keegan), the son of one of his friends.[11] Beauty was critically praised for being an "unvarnished study of the turbulence of the middle-aged male psyche, but it also addresses the current Afrikaner condition".[11] Another critic noted that the film's original title, Skoonheid, ". . . means 'beauty' in Afrikaans but literally translates as 'cleanliness' . . . is a story about the ugly truth of confronting parts of yourself that you hate and try to suppress".[12]

Some reviewers and critics noted that the film's subject matter and visuals could be "off-putting"[11] and "graphic".[13] Hermanus stated that he was grateful that the film stirred debate.[13] "The debates on the gay issues are amazing, but I'm still yearning for the debate to start on other issues like repression and racial tensions in the movie".[13]

Hermanus was guest of honour at "Side by Side," an international festival of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender film held in Moscow in April 2011.[14] The filmmaker presented Beauty at the festival.[14]

The Endless River[edit]

In 2015, Hermanus wrote and directed his third film, The Endless River.[15] This film became the first South African film to compete for the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.[15] Lead actress Crystal Donna Roberts also competed for the Best Actress award at the festival.[15]

The film is set in the small town of Riviersonderend in the Overberg region of South Africa and relates the story of a French expatriate and a small-town waitress who form a bond after the brutal murder of his family on a farm.[16] In describing Endless River, Hermanus explained, "I wanted to combine in my film a place I'm familiar with the story of violence happening in South Africa".[6]


Hermanus's fourth film, Moffie, had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on 4 September 2019.[17] The film is based on an autobiographical novel by South African writer André Carl van der Merwe, relating the author's experiences serving in the South African military during the Apartheid-era war in Angola.[17] The lead character, Nicholas van der Swart (played by Kai Luke Brummer), and fellow recruit Stassen (Ryan de Villiers), share a mutual attraction but must make their sexuality invisible to avoid being viciously humiliated and brutalised.[18] '

Moffie was one of three Southern African films submitted for consideration in the 2021 Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film category.[19]


In October 2020, it was announced that Hermanus will direct the film, Living, set to star Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood.[20] The film's screenplay was written by Japanese author Kazuo Ishiguro and is an adaptation of the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru.[20]


  • Winner, Best South African Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 Durban International Film Festival[4]
  • Winner, Best First Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 Durban International Film Festival[4]
  • Winner, Best Director, Shirley Adams, 2009 South African Film and Television Awards[7]
  • Winner, Best Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 South African Film and Television Awards[7]
  • Nominee, Prize Un Certain Regard, Beauty, 2011 Cannes Film Festival[10]
  • Winner, Queer Palm, Beauty, 2011 Cannes Film Festival[2]
  • Winner, Best Director, Beauty, 2012 South African Film and Television Awards[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] "Oliver Hermanus." IMDb: The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Grange, Helen. "Award-Winning Film on Big Screen Soon". The Argus (Cape Town), 29 May 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  3. ^ a b c d "Former Argus Man's Cannes Honour". The Argus (Cape Town), 15 April 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2015 from ProQuest.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Hermanus Set to Fly High at Fest". The Star (Johannesburg), 12 September 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2015 from ProQuest.
  5. ^ Roddick, Nick. "The London Film School conquers the world". The Evening Standard (London), 24 July 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2015 from ProQuest.
  6. ^ a b Grandesso, Federico. "Interview: South African director presents in movie criminal gangs violence." Xinhua News Agency, 12 September 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015 from Factiva database.
  7. ^ a b c "Oliver wants some more: Oliver Hermanus shows off his bounty at the 2009 film festival". Sunday Tribune (Durban), 17 July 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2015 from ProQuest.
  8. ^ a b c "Stars come out to shine at SAFTA awards: Main winners". The Pretoria News, 12 March 2012. Retrieved 24 November 2015 from ProQuest.
  9. ^ Nicholson, Zara. "South African Actor Wins Award in Zurich". Cape Times, 5 October 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  10. ^ a b "Official Selection 2011: Un Certain Regard. Festival de Cannes website. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Romney, Jonathan. "That's the problem with hacks, just a sniff of vodka and they're anybody's". The Independent on Sunday (London), 22 April 2012. Retrieved 29 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  12. ^ Van Wyk, Andrea. "Secret Obsessions". The Sunday Independent (Johannesburg), 17 April 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  13. ^ a b c Nicholson, Zara. "Gay film elicits praise and reproach". The Mercury (Durban), 9 August 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  14. ^ a b "LGBT community to hold film festival in Moscow". Daily News Bulletin, English (Moscow), 18 April 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  15. ^ a b c "First South African Film Selected for Venice Film Festival". All Africa, 31 July 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015 from Factiva database.
  16. ^ "Breakthrough for SA director as film makes top cut for Venice prize". The Pretoria News, 30 July 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  17. ^ a b Vourlias, Christopher (31 August 2019). "Venice Drama 'Moffie' Explores Homophobia in South Africa". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  18. ^ Romney, Jonathan (4 September 2019). "'Moffie': Venice Review". Screen Daily. Screen International. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  19. ^ "3 local films make the Golden Globes Foreign Language Film submission list". Channel24. News24. 8 December 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  20. ^ a b Engelbrecht, Linda (16 October 2020). "SA director Oliver Hermanus to helm international film Living starring Bill Nighy". Channel24. New24. Retrieved 4 January 2021.

External links[edit]