Finding freedom in surfing during apartheid

April 22, 2013 | Surfing
Otelo Burning: finding freedom in surfing

"Otelo Burning" is the emotional surf movie of South African kids in the township learning to surf at the time of apartheid's end.

When 16-year-old Otelo Buthelezi hits the water for the first time, it's clear that he was born to surf. But then tragedy strikes.

On the day that Nelson Mandela is released from prison, Otelo is forced to choose between surfing success and justice.

"Otelo Burning" brings back 1989 when the struggle against apartheid reached its peak.

Shot in Durban and directed by Sara Blecher, the surf film is a beautifully made, insightful, and entertaining film that captures a turbulent time in the history of South Africa.

The story starts when Otelo Buthelezi, his younger brother Ntwe and his best friend New Year are invited to the beach house where their new friend's mother is a domestic worker.

They watch Mandla Modise surf, and he takes the boys into a world previously closed to them.

It is exactly the opposite of 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.

For the boys, who previously had a deep-seated fear of the sea, "flying on water" comes to represent freedom, and they are sold.

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