Home-grown film leads AMAA nominations

2012-03-27 00:00

THE home-grown film, Otelo Burning, which tells the story of three teenagers who learn to surf as a way of escaping from the violence which engulfed South Africa’s townships in the eighties, leads the nominations for the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), the continent’s equivalent of the Oscars.

Directed by Sara Bletcher, Otelo Burning, which is set in Lamontville and was filmed in the township and around Durban, has 13 nominations, including best film and best film in an African language.

Starring real-life surfer and lifeguard, Sihle Xaba, as Mandla Modise, it tells the story of 16-year-old Otelo Buthelezi (Jafta Mambolo), his younger brother Ntwe (Tshepang Mohlomi), and his best friend New Year (Thomas Gumede), who are introduced to the world of surfing by Mandla.

The beach and sea are a world away from the township where they live — a place under a constant and growing threat from political violence fuelled by Inkatha hostel dwellers on one side, and United Democratic Front comrades on the other.

Soon Otelo’s skills on a surf board outshine those of Mandla, whose resentment grows when Dezi (Safta nominee Nolwazi Shange), New Year’s younger sister, falls for Otelo. And, like Iago in Shakespeare’s tragedy, Othello, he sets in motion a series of events which have tragic consequences for all the players.

“When we made the film I did feel it would touch people, especially here in KwaZulu-Natal... it is such a Durban story,” Bletcher said. “I originally thought if we could show it to the people of Lamontville and they liked it, we had got it right. Now it has touched people around the world ... you can’t wish for anything more.”

Bletcher, who is nominated for an AMAA for best director, admitted to being “over the moon” about the recognition the film has received at home and abroad.

And, while she is delighted with Mambolo’s nomination for best actor in a leading role, Gumede and Xaba’s nods for best young or promising actor and Tshepang’s for best child actor, she believes one name is missing from the list of nominees.

“My only sadness is that Nolwazi didn’t get nominated. She is so amazing in the film,” she said. “But at least she got nominated for a Safta.”

Otelo Burning, which opened the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) last year, was inspired, Bletcher said, by Xaba, who told her that all the lifeguards on Durban beach front came from one township, Lamontville, the only place which had a swimming pool that wasn’t destroyed by apartheid or gangsters.

Intrigued to learn more about the pool and its effect on the local community, Bletcher organised a series of workshops in Lamontville, during which ideas emerged for the screenplay. Seven years later the story made it to the big screen.

Otelo Burning, which opens nationwide on May 11, is one of six South African films and a South African-Nigerian co-production hoping to win prizes at the AMAAs. The other four films listed below.

• Crime drama How To Steal 2 Million, which received 11 nominations, including one for best film, best actor in a supporting role for Rapulana Seiphemo, best actress in a supporting role for Terry Pheto, best actor in a leading role for Menzi Ngubane and best director for Charlie Vundla.

• Retribution drama State Of Violence, which received five nominations, including best film, best feature in an African language, best young/promising actor for Neo Ntlatleng and best director for Khalo Matabane.

• South African-Nigerian co-production Man on the Ground, which details rising xenophobia in South Africa, and got six nominations, including one for best film and best actor in a supporting role for Fana Mokoena.

• The South African-made feature, The Algiers Murders, is a thriller set against the background of the amphetamine and cocaine trade, which received two nominations.

• Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza’s Durban-based documentary Dear Mandela, which details how the Kennedy Road informal settlement residents took on the might of the state in the Constitutional Court and won, is nominated for an AMAA for best documentary.

The South African films will be competing with entries from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Algeria, Cameroon, Guinea, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria, on April 22, hosted by Heroes star Jimmy Jean-Louis.



• Otelo Burning;

• How To Steal 2 Million;

• State of Violence;

• Man on the Ground;

• T he Algiers Murders; and

• Dear Mandela.

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