AfricAvenir Windhoek, Studio 77 and Indigenous Films present the Namibian premiere of the 2011 Durban International Film Festival Opening Film, Otelo Burning on 31 March at Studio 77 in Windhoek. Shot in Durban and directed by South African filmmaker Sara Blecher, the film tells the story of a group of township kids who discover the joy of surfing.
It is 1989 and the struggle against apartheid has reached its zenith. When the poor 16-year-old township boy Otelo Buthelezi from Lamonville with a deep, traditional fear of the water is offered a chance to escape the violence of his community through surfing, he is forced to choose between friendship and his dream.
When Otelo, his best friend, New Year, and his 12 year old brother, Ntwe, are invited to the beach-house of their new friend, Tau Modise, they step into a world previously closed to them. It is exactly the opposite of their township – a place under a constant and growing threat from political violence, driven by Inkatha hostel dwellers on one side and township United Democratic Front comrades on the other.
Soon, everyone recognises that Otelo is gifted on the water, a god in waiting for his purpose. An older white man, Kurt Struely, approaches the boys, certain of their potential and invites them to his home to watch some professional surfers on video. He paints them an enticing picture of the life to be had, if they can master every kind of break – money for nothing and the chicks for free.
The boys practise and, under Struely’s watchful eye, become really good. Otelo outshines his teacher, Tau, who begins to resent the obvious natural talent of his friend. His resentment builds even more when Dezi, New Year’s younger sister, falls for Otelo. When Struely enters the boys into their first “localism’ competition, Tau persuades his cousin, Stembiso, to look after Ntwe at the township pool where the boys learnt to swim. But while the boys are carving out new paradigms on the water, Tau breaks his prized surfing board and Ntwe is burnt to death with a tire necklace as a suspected informer for the apartheid security police.
When Otelo, with New Year’s help, discovers the truth behind his younger brother’s death, he has to make a choice between the money, glamour, girls and superstardom of international surfdom and justice for Ntwe. On the day Nelson Mandela steps out of prison for the first time in 27 years, what this boy chooses will resonate for audiences everywhere.
After causing a stir as the opening film of the 2011 Durban International Film Festival, Otelo Burning made its international debut at the 16th annual Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in Korea. BIFF is Asia’s most prestigious and largest film festival. Otelo Burning was one of very few African films to feature at the festival along with films from Asia, Europe and America.
Following its international premiere at BIFF, the film made its UK premiere at the 55th BFI London International Film Festival in October.
Otelo Burning premiered in the Middle East in December 2011 at the 8th Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF), the leading film festival in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Director Sara Blecher was awarded the IFP Adrienne Shelly Director’s Grant in New York. Blecher is a former recipient of the CNN African Journalist of the Year Award.
The AfricAvenir Windhoek screening commences at 7pm and the entry fee is N$30.
The venue is Studio 77, Old Breweries Complex, entrance Garten Str.