Otelo burning - When problems surface boys just surf away
IN the film Otelo Burning, an adamant and furious Blade (Motlatsi Mafatshe) asks a frightened Skhumbuza (Hamilton Dhlamini) at the pool-side the question, Uyayaz'iNkululeko (Do you know what freedom is)?
He then goes on to answer his own question, Iyabiz'inkululeko, ayikho lula futhi, kumele ku chithek'igazi; lisazo chitheka futhi (Freedom is costly and blood needs to be shed, and it shall be shed).
This is one of the many emotive scenes that capture the essence of the film.
Set in the late '80s in Lamontville township, at the height of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal, three teenage boys Otelo Buthelezi (Jafta Mamabolo), New Year (Thomas Gumede) and Mandla Modise (Sihle Xaba) discover what freedom is through surfing - something they never knew about before.
Surfing is introduced to them by Mandla who is exposed to a white kind of lifestyle as his mother is a domestic worker for a white family.
The story unfolds as Otelo is seen gaining confidence at surfing and revelling in the liberation this brings him.
Together with his best friend New Year and his younger brother Ntwe, Otelo finds contentment despite his environment, growing up in a hostile family within a politicised social climate.
But sadly it is through surfing that Otelo comes face to face with the issues of jealousy, betrayal and loss as Ntwe is brutally killed.
Otelo is seen going through grief, anger and guilt while trying to find solace through surfing. The film creatively explores Otelo's and his friends' inner struggles without over emphasising their apartheid background, focusing rather on how they try to find themselves under the circumstances.
Not only do the boys have to deal with environmental issues, but they also confront the struggles that normal teenage kids face, namely discovering love, sex and alcohol.
The film is beautifully shot with camera angles that convincingly display Otelo's short-lived joy as he glides over the sea.
Kudos to director Sara Blecher for a well told and still relevant story about how to rise above the challenges of life no matter how tough they might be.
Otelo Burning opens at cinemas countrywide on May 11.