Tonight’s film Otelo Burning is a feature film about South Africa at the height of apartheid, centering around a group of young men, 16 year old Otelo Buthelezi, his younger brother Ntwe and his best friend New Year who become entranced by surfing and the freedom it can afford them. Despite signs saying that the beach and the sea are for whites only, Otelo and New Year take to sea and with the help of Mandla who is on his way to becoming a champion surfer, and a white man, Kurt Struely, who sees both Mandla and Otelo’s potential.
But as Otelo’s skills as a surfer grow and the world opens for him, his mentor Mandla turns against him, using Ntwe as a pawn in his jealous plot to destroy Otelo’s future. When Otelo discovers the truth behind his younger brother’s death, he has to make a choice between the money, glamor, girls and superstardom of international surfing and justice for Ntwe. On the day Nelson Mandela steps out of prison for the first time in 27 years, the young boy makes a choice that will change his life forever.
Tonight we are joined by the film’s award winning documentary director and producer Sara Blecher who developed Otelo Burning over seven years in an extensive workshop process conducted with a group of children in Lamontville, near Durban. Also joining us, the film’s star, Jafta Mamabolo, one of South Africa’s most acclaimed actors, who plays Otelo.
Otelo Burning is beautiful, powerful, moving as it reveals a brutal life under apartheid and the yearning for freedom, and both the strengths and weaknesses of human spirit. The film, shot in Zulu with English subtitles, is now available in digital download.