Otelo Burning

South Africa | 2011 | 97 min

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Based on true events, Otelo Burning is a story of three South African teens that escape the turmoil of their township and discover the joy of surfing. When Otelo Buthelezi takes to the water for the first time, it's clear that he was born to surf, but as the group become stars on the surfing circuit, their bond begins to unravel and their competitiveness, especially Otelo’s romantic interest in New Year’s sister, breeds an unavoidable conflict.  Finally tragedy strikes on the day that Nelson Mandela is released from prison, and Otelo is forced to choose between surfing success and justice. Jealousy, betrayal and political turbulence impact the lives of these young boys in ways that will change them forever. At it’s heart, Otelo Burning is a coming of age story about 3 young men and a nation exploring the different paths to freedom, and the will to survive in spite of insurmountable odds.  Includes music from South Africa’s top hip hop artists. Winner of 17 International Awards.


Otelo Burning was a participant in IFP’s 2011 Narrative Independent Filmmaker Labs and is released through IFP’s collaboration and partnership with the  Sundance Institute #ArtistServices Initiative.


  • DIR Sara Belcher
    SCR James Whyle
    CAST Jafta Mamabolo, Thomas Guimede, Sihle Xaba, Tshepang Mohlomi, Nolwazi Shange, Kenneth Nkosi, Harriet Manamela

    Official site