|Alma mater||University of Cape Town|
London Film School
|Occupation||Film director, writer|
Oliver Hermanus (born 26 May 1983) is a South African film director and writer. His films include Shirley Adams (2009), Beauty (Skoonheid) (2011), The Endless River (2015), and Moffie (2019). His film Beauty won the Queer Palm Award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
Early life and career
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 were not permitted to live in the town centre under Apartheid. His parents were ANC activists. His family would bury banned books in the garden, ignore segregated beaches, and homeschool his older siblings. They commuted to school nearby in the Eastern Cape.
Hermanus graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Film, Media, and Visual Studies from the University of Cape Town. He initially worked as a press photographer for the Cape Argus newspaper. In 2006, Hermanus received a private scholarship to attend the London Film School, where he earned his master's degree in film.
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. 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.
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. The film was shown in competition at the Locarno Film Festival and was also shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film also won awards for Best Film and Best Director at the 2009 South African Film and Television Awards.
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. The film won the 2011 Queer Palm Award for best picture, and Hermanus won the 2012 South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) for Best Director. Lead actor Deon Lotz won the 2012 SAFTA for Best Actor in a Feature Film for his role in Beauty, as well as Best Actor at the Zurich Film Festival. Beauty was also part of the Official Selection 2011 for the Prize Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival.
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. 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". 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".
Some reviewers and critics noted that the film's subject matter and visuals could be "off-putting" and "graphic". Hermanus stated that he was grateful that the film stirred debate. "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".
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. The filmmaker presented Beauty at the festival.
The Endless River
In 2015, Hermanus wrote and directed his third film, The Endless River. This film became the first South African film to compete for the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. Lead actress Crystal Donna Roberts also competed for the Best Actress award at the festival.
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. 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".
Hermanus's fourth film, Moffie, had its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on 4 September 2019. 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. 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. '
Moffie was one of three Southern African films submitted for consideration in the 2021 Golden Globe Awards Best Foreign Language Film category. Sidney was nominated for a 2021 British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) for Outstanding Debut; the film also received a BFI nomination for Best Film and won the Jury Prize at the 2020 Dublin International Film Festival. Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 90% based on 94 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10.
In October 2020, it was announced that Hermanus would direct his first non-South African film, Living, starring Bill Nighy and Aimee Lou Wood. The film's screenplay was written by the Japanese–British author Kazuo Ishiguro and is an adaptation of the 1952 Japanese film Ikiru. Living premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
The History of Sound
At the end of October 2021, it was announced Hermanus would adapt Ben Shattuck's World War I short story "The History of Sound" starring Josh O'Connor and Paul Mescal. Hermanus had developed the script with Shattuck himself during lockdown.
- Winner, Best South African Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 Durban International Film Festival
- Winner, Best First Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 Durban International Film Festival
- Winner, Best Director, Shirley Adams, 2009 South African Film and Television Awards
- Winner, Best Film, Shirley Adams, 2009 South African Film and Television Awards
- Nominee, Prize Un Certain Regard, Beauty, 2011 Cannes Film Festival
- Winner, Queer Palm, Beauty, 2011 Cannes Film Festival
- Winner, Best Director, Beauty, 2012 South African Film and Television Awards
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- McMichael, Christopher (15 June 2021). "'Moffie' battles toxic apartheid nostalgia". New Frame. Retrieved 30 October 2021.