The construction of split whiteness in the queer films Kanarie (2018) and Moffie (2019)




South African film, queer film, Afrikaner culture, gay white characters, whiteness


After the end of formal apartheid, a number of South African feature films have explored queer white men in conservative social settings, with a particular focus on Afrikaans-speaking gay men. These films have reflected strict heteropatriarchal values within white Afrikaner culture where homosexuality is still often seen as a taboo topic. In this article I discuss two feature films with gay white male protagonists, Kanarie (2018) by Christiaan Olwagen and Moffie (2019) by Oliver Hermanus. These films both feature young men conscripted to fight in the South African Border War in the 1980s, but differ greatly in terms of genre, plot, and style. I argue that, while many scholars discuss whiteness as a general construct that affords privilege, the films demonstrate a split whiteness that is effected through the composition of particular shots and scenes as well as through the films’ processes of production and reception. Whiteness is split into an invisibilised, assumedly critical perspective on the one hand, with transnational links to the Global North, and a hypervisibilised, reified, and criticised racial identity on the other hand, located specifically in the heteropatriarchal Afrikaner male. Queer characters in both films are able to split their identities and dissociate from uncomfortable parts of their whiteness, taking on an assumed criticality that highlights their own oppression and exclusion. The films thus dismiss the protagonists’ complicity in white supremacy, and allow audiences to dissociate from their own complicity in anti-black violence and oppression.


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How to Cite

Andrews, G. (2022). The construction of split whiteness in the queer films Kanarie (2018) and Moffie (2019). Tydskrif Vir Letterkunde, 59(1), 52–61.



Research articles