A powerful film portraying institutionalized racism and police brutality, Otomo provides a convincing look at the everyday world of refugees, who are continuously surrounded by tension and insecurity. In the summer of 1989, a Stuttgart newspaper reported the true story of a West African asylum seeker who physically assaulted an intolerant subway ticket-taker; fled, and became the target of a city-wide manhunt. Otomo is a sober, fictionalized reconstruction of a tale that shocked Stuttgart, and a gripping portrait of how institutionalized racism drives a disempowered individual to violence and inhumanity.
West African immigrant Frederic Otomo (Isaach de Bankole) lacks the proper papers to be hired for the most menial of jobs; he has survived for eight years with the help of a Catholic charity. Otomo is the target of verbal abuse, is thrown out of his boarding house, and even scorned by neighborhood dogs. He feels and looks out of place. A stoic bubbling pot of wrath on the run, de Bankole's performance establishes Otomo's essence without words-language cannot express the gravity of his situation. As a ticking soundtrack counts down his fated minutes, Otomo is helped by a kind, aging hippie and her granddaughter, establishing the potential for an inclusive German society….if it is not too late...
Best Actress, Valenciennes Film Festival 2000
"I was impressed by the decision to make Otomo a bit of an anti-hero, seeming aware that in desperate times, good people may say or do things outside the norm." -- Greg Dean Schmitz, Greg's previews at Yahoo!Movies
"Documents the institutionalized racism and xenophobia that painted one man into a corner, while never excusing the terrible means by which he took his final escape." -- Jessica Winter, Village Voice
"Much of the sense of size in this account of an immigrant worker, who is only one among many thousands in Germany, comes from the performance by Isaach de Bankole." -- Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic
Bonus Fiction Film with DVD: WAALO FENDO: WHERE THE EARTH FREEZES
Senegal / Switzerland, 1998, 65 mins, drama in Wolof and Italian with English subtitles, Mohammed Soudani, dir.
Milan, like Paris or Stuttgart, and like many other European cities, is the theater of the drama of immigration. Demba reconstructs his story and that of his brother Yaro, both Senegalese immigrants in Italy, in a long and fragmentary flashback that begins with Yaro’s murder and recounts their departure from the village, arrival in Europe, the work they find selling lighters and picking tomatoes in the south of Italy: the stages every “non-EEC citizen” goes through in Italy. It is a story of immigration like so many others but that most people are unaware of. Waalo Fendo illustrates the dehumanization faced by so many immigrants all over the world.