The Durban Film Office has applauded local actor, Tshepang Mohlomi, who last week received his second Best Child Actor Award at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) for his role in Durban film Otelo Burning.
Muhlomi, an 18-year old high school learner from Ntuzuma is cast as "Ntwe" in the feature film which is set to debut countrywide in cinemas on 11 May 2012. Durban Film Office Head Toni Monty has welcomed the win as well as the forthcoming screening of the film which Monty believes is created by a "deluge of home-grown talent". "Otelo Burning is a proudly-Durban film that will undoubtedly make lasting impressions to an international audience. It is reminiscent of the fact that Durban is gifted with talented local actors and filmmaking professionals," said Monty.
The award is a significant win for Durban providing an opportunity not only to showcase the tourism feats of the city but also the path of reconciliation and nation building the city has promoted, said Monty. "The film is a microcosm of our society and we are encouraged by the sheer effort of filmmakers who want to tell real life stories and promote actors and actresses who have that raw talent which tells the story so convincingly," Monty said.
Otelo Burning tells the tale a group of township boys who discover the joys of surfing. The story is set in 1989, against a backdrop of brewing conflict between two groups in Lamontville, KwaZulu Natal. For the boys, who previously had a deep-seated fear of the sea, "flying on water" comes to represent freedom and escapism during a time of conflict. Filmed on Durban's popular beaches, the film features real-life Durban lifeguard and surfer Sihle Xaba who first introduced Director Sara Blecher to the true-life story. The film has both garnered international acclaim and a flux of awards for its true-life depiction of historical events, including the brutalities of apartheid and the inception of a democratic government on 27 April 1994.
Otelo Burning which made its world premiere at the Durban International Film Festival, which is run by the DFM, last year is set to screen at various international film festivals in the forthcoming months including Cinemonde Film Festival in France, the Tiburon International Film Festival in California and the Seattle International Film festival.
Despite having no acting training, Muhlomi is no stranger to the film industry and already boasts an armful of enviable awards. Mohlomi was cast in his first role as "Chilli-bite" in award-winning Durban film Izulu Lami: My Secret Sky at the tender age of 13 which rocketed the teenager into international fame for his portrayal of a street-child.
Mentor Madoda Ncayiyana, co-producer and writer of iZulu Lami, discovered Mohlomi in a local informal settlement during casting of the feature film. Said Ncayiyana; "I knew that I had discovered a rough diamond who would really brighten up the future of South Africa's film industry. Even though he is still a teenager, Tshepang has matured into a powerful professional actor who never stops until he gets his character right; he is always busy trying to improve his abilities."
The role landed him his first AMAA Best Child Actor Award last year as well as a South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) for Best Supporting Actor, through which he competed against adult actors. Since then Mohlomi has starred in other locally produced films including Florida Road, At Ellens Age and most recently Otelo Burning.
Muhlomi is widely known for his role in his debut film, particularly amoungst his peers and his neighbours in his township residence, who fondly refer to him as "Chilli-bite". But Ncayiyana insists that the child actor has not let "the fame go to his head". "He is also a very caring young person, as he has used the payments he has received for his acting to help his family to extend their shack in Ntuzuma," said Ncayiyana who is also joint owner of Durban production house Vuleka productions.
Mohlomi's performance in Otelo Burning is further evidence of the youths "raw talent", said Ncayiyana. "During his audition for Otelo Burning, everyone present had tears in their eyes and goose bumps watching him perform....I'm not surprised that he has done so well," said Ncayiyana.
The film, nominated in 13 categories in the 2012 AMAAs which took place on 21 April 2012 recorded the highest number of nominations for a feature film at this year's event. In addition to the AMAAs, where Otelo Burning received the Best Cinematography as well as Best Child Actor Awards, the film has also been awarded the Golden Owl audience award at the Cinerama BC International Film Festival in Brazil earlier this month and the Best South African Feature Film award at the fifth Cape Winelands Film Festival in March 2012.
Ncayiyana is particularly excited for Mohlomi's next acting appearance- the lead role in the film company's upcoming local film Muti dot Mobi. Said Ncayiyana; "The film industry is looking forward to seeing what Tshepang can do on the big screen again. I can't say much about it yet, except to tell you that in this next film Tshepang not only acts - he also sings!"
For more information on Otelo Burning and screenings visit: http://www.oteloburning.com/