Waves of emotion, human truth, angst, excitement and the internal wars we have when faced with right and wrong versus what is the best way to live is told beautifully through the story of three young men in the KwaZulu Natal township of Lamontville in 1989, as they navigate growing up in apartheid South Africa; young boys becoming men through blood covered streets and discovering their passion surfing.
These waves crashed onto the big screen,  enveloped me and transported me to a world of Freedom where there was none.

Otelo Burning showed me beautifully that even though humans are fallible creatures, all of us in all that we do look for and experience beauty in life; we are moved by beauty in all forms. What makes us feel alive is this beauty – be it the young men escaping on the waves offered by the sea, or the beauty in one of them falling in love, the beauty in the other discovering his love of capturing life’s incredible kinetic moments in stills; beauty and experiencing it drove them. I believe, and I saw this confirmed in the movie; experiencing the adrenalin of life through something you love makes you feel like you can handle almost anything.

Otelo Burning is based on various true life experiences of the people who were in Lamontville in ’89, with a golden thread being Sihle Xaba,  who is a lifeguard and surfer in real life, and one of the lead actors in the film,  and so the story of Lamontville in that time is carried by him and the tumultuous and enigmatic ocean and the conversation she has with all who touch her. Quite brilliant.

The acting is powerful and flawless, so much so that you are transported from being a viewer to the being in the very pulse of each character. Jafta, Thomas and Sihle were perfectly cast for the lead roles. I could feel each performers exhilaration, pain, joy, anxiety, happiness and fear. It is a well shot story told extremely well. The movie is gripping from the very first second, gritty, with a stirring and poetic script, beautiful cinematography and incredible soundtrack (Please download the amazing mixtape)

My initial and only criticism was that the English subtitles didn’t quite capture the Zulu script, but I then came to realise that this made me proud in a strange way. I’m not an isiZulu speaker, but I understand it because it is close to isiXhosa. I fell in love with the language for the first time. The metaphorical and riveting way in which the language allows for communication further carried the film and I loved that it would be impossible to perfectly translate into the less developed and less emotional language like English.

Otelo burning is an amazing movie that I will see again and again.

Think of waves; Soft, inviting, hard, crashing, flowing, breathtaking, mesmerising, enigmatic, powerful, enveloping, moving, escapism and freedom – OTELO BURNING is all of that.

Out in cinemas 11 May 2012

Sihle Xaba

Thomas, Sihle, Jafta