Oliver Hermanus

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Oliver Hermanus
Born (1983-05-26) 26 May 1983 (age 40)
NationalitySouth African citizenship
Alma materUniversity of Cape Town
London Film School
Occupation(s)Film director, writer
Years active2009–present

Oliver Hermanus (born 26 May 1983) is a South African film director and writer.[1] He is known for his films Shirley Adams (2009), Beauty (Skoonheid) (2011), The Endless River (2015), Moffie (2019), and Living (2022). Beauty won the Queer Palm Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

Hermanus was born in Cape Town and moved to Plettenberg Bay when he was three. He grew up in a house his father built in the hills, as his 'coloured' family was not permitted to live in the town centre under Apartheid. His parents were ANC activists. His family buried banned books in the garden, ignored segregated beaches, and homeschooled his older siblings.[3] They commuted to school nearby in the Eastern Cape.[4]

Hermanus graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Media, and Visual Studies from the University of Cape Town.[5] He initially worked as a press photographer for the Cape Argus newspaper.[5] While working for "The Argus", a mutual friend introduced Hermanus to award-winning German director Roland Emmerich who played a crucial role in Hermanus's career by giving him a private scholarship to attend the London Film School,[5] where he earned his master's degree in film.[6] Emmerich helped Hermanus make his first feature film, "Shirley Adams".[7]


Shirley Adams[edit]

Shirley Adams, Hermanus's first film, released in 2009, relates the story of a single mother raising her paraplegic son, who was injured during a gang fight.[6] 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.[8]

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.[6] The film was shown in competition at the Locarno Film Festival[9] and was also shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.[6] The film also won awards for Best Film and Best Director at the 2009 South African Film and Television Awards.[10]


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.[5] 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.[11] Lead actor Deon Lotz won the 2012 SAFTA for Best Actor in a Feature Film for his role in Beauty,[11] as well as Best Actor at the Zurich Film Festival.[12] Beauty was also part of the Official Selection 2011 for the Prize Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival.[13]

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.[14] 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".[14] 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".[15]

Some reviewers and critics noted that the film's subject matter and visuals could be "off-putting"[14] and "graphic".[16] Hermanus stated that he was grateful that the film stirred debate.[16] "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".[16]

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.[17] The filmmaker presented Beauty at the festival.[17]

The Endless River[edit]

In 2015, Hermanus wrote and directed his third film, The Endless River.[18] This film became the first South African film to compete for the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.[18] Lead actress Crystal Donna Roberts also competed for the Best Actress award at the festival.[18]

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.[19] 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".[9]


Moffie had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on 4 September 2019.[20] 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.[20] The lead character, Nicholas van der Swart (played by Kai Luke Brümmer), and fellow recruit Stassen (Ryan de Villiers), share a mutual attraction but must make their sexuality invisible to avoid being viciously humiliated and brutalised.[21]

Moffie was one of three Southern African films submitted for consideration in the 2021 Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film category.[22] Sidney was nominated for a 2021 British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) for Outstanding Debut;[23] the film also received a BFI nomination for Best Film and won the Jury Prize at the 2020 Dublin International Film Festival.[24] Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 90%, based on 94 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10.[25]


In October 2020, it was announced that Hermanus would direct Living, his first non-South African film, starring Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood.[26] The film's screenplay was written by the Japanese–British author Kazuo Ishiguro and is an adaptation of the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru.[26] Living premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.[27] and screened 2022 Venice Film Festival. The film received a number of accolades, including British Independent Film Award and British Academy Film Award nominations, as well as multiple acting nominations for Nighy. Nighy and Ishiguro then received Academy Award nominations in the acting and adapted screenplay categories respectively, making Living Hermanus' first film to receive Academy Award nominations.

The History of Sound[edit]

At the end of October 2021, it was announced Hermanus would adapt Ben Shattuck's short story "The History of Sound" starring Josh O'Connor and Paul Mescal.[28] Hermanus had developed the script with Shattuck himself during COVID-19 lockdown.[29]


For his first television project, Hermanus is attached to direct and executive produce Mary & George, a miniseries starring Julianne Moore as Mary Villiers, Countess of Buckingham for Sky Studios in the UK and AMC in the US.[30]

Personal life[edit]

Hermanus is gay. He lives in Barrydale.[31]


  • Winner, Best South African Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 Durban International Film Festival[6]
  • Winner, Best First Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 Durban International Film Festival[6]
  • Winner, Best Director, Shirley Adams, 2009 South African Film and Television Awards[10]
  • Winner, Best Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 South African Film and Television Awards[10]
  • Nominee, Prize Un Certain Regard, Beauty, 2011 Cannes Film Festival[13]
  • Winner, Queer Palm, Beauty, 2011 Cannes Film Festival[2]
  • Winner, Best Director, Beauty, 2012 South African Film and Television Awards[11]


  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. ^ Aftab, Kaleem (23 April 2020). "Moffie director Oliver Hermanus: 'Apartheid bred a certain kind of hatred that still exists'". INews. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  4. ^ Smith, Theresa. "Director tackles SA's coloured complexities". IOL. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d "Former Argus Man's Cannes Honour". The Argus (Cape Town), 15 April 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2015 from ProQuest.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Oliver Hermanus | IFFR".
  8. ^ Roddick, Nick. "The London Film School conquers the world". The Evening Standard (London), 24 July 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2015 from ProQuest.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Nicholson, Zara. "South African Actor Wins Award in Zurich". Cape Times, 5 October 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  13. ^ a b "Official Selection 2011: Un Certain Regard. Festival de Cannes website. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Van Wyk, Andrea. "Secret Obsessions". The Sunday Independent (Johannesburg), 17 April 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2015 from ProQuest database.
  16. ^ a b c Nicholson, Zara. "Gay film elicits praise and reproach". The Mercury (Durban), 9 August 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ a b c "First South African Film Selected for Venice Film Festival". All Africa, 31 July 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015 from Factiva database.
  19. ^ "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.
  20. ^ a b Vourlias, Christopher (31 August 2019). "Venice Drama 'Moffie' Explores Homophobia in South Africa". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  21. ^ Romney, Jonathan (4 September 2019). "'Moffie': Venice Review". Screen Daily. Screen International. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  22. ^ "3 local films make the Golden Globes Foreign Language Film submission list". Channel24. News24. 8 December 2020. Retrieved 4 January 2021.
  23. ^ "2021 EE British Academy Film Awards: The Winners". BAFTA. 9 March 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  24. ^ "Award Winners at VMDIFF20". DIFF Festival Limited.
  25. ^ "Moffie (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony; Patten, Dominic (9 December 2021). "Sundance 2022: Hybrid Festival Sees Princess Diana, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dakota Johnson, Bill Cosby, NYC Rock'n'Roll & Regina Hall Fill Lineup". Deadline. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  28. ^ Hipes, Patrick (29 October 2021). "Josh O'Connor And Paul Mescal To Star In 'The History Of Sound'; Oliver Hermanus To Direct WWI Love Story – AFM". Deadline. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  29. ^ Eloff, Herman (29 October 2021). "SA filmmaker Oliver Hermanus to direct new film starring Josh O'Connor and Paul Mescal". Channel24. Retrieved 29 October 2021.
  30. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (17 October 2022). "Julianne Moore To Lead Sky & AMC Period Drama 'Mary & George' About Mary Villiers, Son George & Royal Court Intrigue In Jacobean England — Mipcom Cannes". Deadline. Retrieved 17 October 2022.
  31. ^ McMichael, Christopher (15 June 2021). "'Moffie' battles toxic apartheid nostalgia". New Frame. Retrieved 30 October 2021.

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