White Wash (if you'd like to, click here), you'll already be one-up on the idea of black surfboarders taking to the waves and having one of those waves "catch them," rather than the other way around -- which, as we're told, is simply untrue: A surfer, black or white, never "catches a wave." Rather, the wave catches him or her. All of the above is a kind of prelude to my discussion of the film that arrives here digitally this coming week: OTELO BURNING, a narrative movie by Sara Blecher that has its style and roots deep in the documentary form.
Surfing Soweto and then the South African version of the TV reality series, Who Do You Think You Are? Initially, Otelo Burning seems quite like a documentary in many ways, from its look, sound (the movie is narrated as often as any dialog is spoken) and performances, which have to them, the kind of "reality" we often expect from that other, true-life movie format.
Janis Joplin song. Freedom of a sort is certainly important to Otelo and his friends, though their understanding of it is at this point woefully limited. Surfing provides a taste of it (oddly, the movie spends rather little time on the actual learning of the skill or even of its being practiced in the water, above), but any kind of genuine freedom for South African blacks (or whites, for that matter) still eludes this sad, traumatized country. (For the best and deepest look so far at post-Apartheid South Africa, do see -- if you haven't already -- Disgrace, the fine and disturbing movie starring John Malkovich.)
Sundance Institute's Artist Services Program -- with the film available for pre-order through Sundance Institute’s Now Playing page, as a result of the partnership between Sundance Institute and IFP, which release several of their alumni films each year through this collaboration. Otelo Burning will also be making its debut on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Microsoft Xbox, Sony Entertainment Network, SundanceNOW, VUDU and YouTube/GooglePlay.