EXEC PRODS Kevin Fleischer, Zanele Mthembu
PROD Sara Blecher
SCR James Whyle, Sara Blecher, the cast workshop
CAM Lance Gewer
ED Megan Gill
PROD DES Anita van Hemert
MUS Alan Lazar, Tiago Correia-Paulo
PROD CO Cinga Productions / National Film and Video Foundation / Sabido Productions
It is 1989 in South Africa, and the fight against apartheid is peaking. In a year Nelson Mandela will be released from his life sentence and President de Klerk will begin the negotiations that led to the system’s end. In Lamontville, a coastal township just south of Durban, apartheid is still the constant background, a source of increasing political violence, and the way things have always been.
For Otelo Buthelezi (Jafta Mamabolo), his tag-along kid brother Ntwe (Tshepang Mohlomi) and best pal New Year (Thomas Gumede), the big news of the year is the ocean. Raised to be scared of the water, the trio find themselves invited to a beach house where an acquaintance’s mother works as a domestic servant. There they see a friend take to the waters and ride the surf on a board, and their lives are changed. Otelo, it gradually turns out, is a natural. His life opens up beyond its wildest possible horizons; a career as an international surfing star beckons. But Otelo isn’t called Otelo by coincidence. Jealousy, from within his group, soon makes a deadly appearance, and it turns out that apartheid isn’t something you can keep in the background.
Sara Blecher’s vibrant film captures a subculture as it confronts a historical turning point. A documentary filmmaker who has previously chronicled the Zulu surfers of Durban, she has assembled a fresh young cast, some of whom come directly from the world the film portrays.