New Movie ‘While You Weren’t Looking’ Looks at Queerness in South Africa

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When it comes to films with queer female content, we’re lucky if we get just one couple to focus on, fall for and get emotional over. Our fortunes must be turning around then as new film While You Weren’t Looking gives us not one, but two couples to talk about, each with their own difficulties and troubles as they try and navigate the quirks of South African society.

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The first couple, Dez and Terri, are unlikely to win many viewers over though. The mixed race couple have been married for 20 long years and while they are still as attracted to each other as they ever were, the cracks are starting to show. Namely, Terri is beginning to suspect that fact that Dez is cheating on her. Following her instincts, we see Terri giving in and trying to find some answers but also trying to shun the idea that her partner would cheat on her. As a viewer you want Terri and Dez to be happy and hope that Terri is imagining things but on the other hand wouldn’t you just want to know once and for all what’s going on?

The other relationship at the heart of this film involves Dez and Terri’s daughter, Asanda. Asanda has just turned 18 and like many young people who have just entered adulthood, she heads to the club where she kisses someone who she presumes to be a boy. She’s wrong, however, and rather than being a cautionary tale about presuming someone’s gender, when Asanda discovers that Shado is actually a ‘tommy boy’ from a local township, she invites her over instead.

When Shado comes over, we see her being judged by the family maid and treated cautiously by Terri, with Asansa’s mother seeming to mistake Shado as a burglar. That’s down to the fact that they realise that Shado is from the township and they are decidedly upper class. Shado is harmless, it eventually turns out, but the other people in her township are not. The class divide is a stress on Asanda and Shado’s relationship, but you’ll be rooting for them nonetheless.

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While You Weren’t Looking has featured in film festivals across the world. Check your local film festival to see if a showing is available.

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