South African director Oliver Hermanus says that having his Afrikaans language film
Skoonheid invited to compete at the 64th Cannes Film Festival in France (11 to 22 May)
is a dream come true.
“I hope the inclusion of Skoonheid in Cannes will help other directors like me, who are
interested in character studies, to get their projects financed and produced,’ says 27-
year- old Hermanus.
Skoonheid (Beauty) is his second feature film and the fifth South African film ever to be
invited to the official selection in the Un Certain Regard category of the Cannes Film
The film is the first official co-production between South Africa and France following their
treaty which was signed at Cannes in 2010.
While Skoonheid is also the first film in the Afrikaans language to be selected, Hermanus
doesn’t seem to think it will specifically impact the Afrikaans film industry. “I don’t think
that the film will be identified as such (Afrikaans) once it has been seen,’ he explains.
He adds that the film was French before it was South African. After his first feature film,
Shirley Adams, premiered in competition at the Locarno International Film Festival in
Switzerland in 2009, Hermanus was selected to participate in a residence programme at
the 19th session of the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation in Paris.
French producer Didier Costet of Swift Productions crossed his path while he was writing
Skoonheid in Paris and agreed to produce the film. Moonlighting Films was chosen as the
South African production partner. “The reality is that this kind of film would not exist if I
had to approach or rely on finance bodies in South Africa,’ Hermanus says.
According to Hermanus Skoonheid, like his first film, is a character portrait. Shirley
Adams won the award for best South African film at the 2009 Durban International Film
Festival and best feature film at the 2010 South African Film and Television Awards.
Continuing in the same tradition Skoonheid is a character study of Francois van
Heerden, a mid-forties, white, Afrikaans-speaking family man living in Bloemfontein who
has become devoid of any concern for his own happiness. He is so convinced of his ill-
fated existence that he is wholly unprepared for a chance encounter that unravels his
clean, controlled life.
A collection of young South African talent contributed to the success of the film,
including 28-year-old director of photography Jamie Ramsey, who is the second local
DOP to have his work showcased in the official selection in Cannes. Co-producer Dylan
Voogt, composer Ben Ludik and actor Charlie Keegan will all make their debut on the
Promenade de la Croisette at Cannes with Skoonheid.
Other films competing in the Un Certain Regard section include new works by renowned
filmmakers Gus Van Sant (Milk, Good Will Hunting and Elephant), Bruno Dumont (29
Palms, Humanite) and South Korean director Kim Ki–Duk (The Isle, 3-Iron).