Otelo Burning impresses at DIFF
Otelo Burning is like reading three Bukowsi books back to back. Directed by Sara Bletcher and the much-anticipated follow-up to her runaway documentary hit Surfing Soweto, the film does well to hold up as a plausible story in a less than plausible context. Set in late eighties the film chronicles the life of Otelo, Mandla, New Year and Ntwe as they try to break free from the confines of the race politics of the day and surf the waves of Durban.
The highly stylised film is littered with a canvas of well framed shots. The camera work is clearly influenced by the work Bletcher had done on Surfing Soweto. With the use of shaky cam and soft transitions it adds to gritty realism of the plot. What is a particularly interesting is how the relatively young cast manages to keep the attention of the viewer for as long as they have asked for it. Durban boy Thomas Gumede who is well-known as a standup comic, does a good job at transitioning into the more serious role of New Year. But perhaps the real gem of the film is Nolwazi Shange. As the girl who is caught in a love triangle between Mandla and Otelo she does well to portray a kind of vulnerability and softness without over compensating on the characters strength.
We are taken on rollercoaster or perhaps I should say a wave ride as we follow Mandla and Otelo from a great friendship to a bitter end that will shock even the most avid thriller junkies. It’s a must watch for anyone who loves surfing, or is simply tired f the melodramatic political dramas to which we have become accustomed.