November 2001

Reviewed by Wilson Morales


Distributor:Artmattan Productions
Director:Frieder Schaich
Screenwriter:Klaus Pohl, Frieder Schaich
Cast:Isaac de Bankole, Eva Mattes, Hanno Friedrich, Barnaby Metschurat
Running Time:85 min
Language:German with English subtitles

While the world is joined in its fight against terrorism, some things stay the same. Crime will exist and racism may never go away. In the United States, racism isnít tolerated. This is the land where anyone can live and be free. Itís not easy to adjust, but time takes care of that. In other countries, itís not the same. Germany is one of the few, if not many, where as an immigrant you are quickly discriminated against. If religion isnít the issue, then it is your skin color. Itís bad if donít have money to support yourself, but to face racism by almost everyone because of your color is another thing. In ďOtomo,Ē one manís quest to fight for his life is evidence that racial equality is not the same for all countries.

Frederick Otomo (Isaac de Bankole) is a poor immigrant from West Africa living in Germany in the late eighties. As he struggles to find food, heís faced with harsh racist attitudes. As he looks for work, he finds everyone looking at him and calling him names. The hiring manager at a local vendor wonít take him on because his papers arenít ďlegit enough.Ē ďNiggaĒ is what the locals call him. On his way to the job exchange at the Ministry of Labor, Otomoís streetcar ticket is questioned. Otomo believes heís being singled out because of his skin. He vehemently argues with the conductors believing that his ticket is valid. As the conductor calls for the police, Otomo runs off to the next station. The conductor files a complaint for bodily harms and police start a manhunt for Otomo. Two police officers gladly give up their routine duties to search for Otomo. While searching for ways to flee the country, Otomo takes up solace with a white local who befriends him. Itís only a matter of time before the police catch him and arrest him for assault. On the morning of August 8, 1989, the police caught Otomo in the vicinity of Gaisburger Bridge and stopped him.

This story is based on the accounts of those who knew Otomo during those last few days although the truth is never really told. Isaac de Bankole, who has mostly been seen in films directed by Jim Jarmusch, does a credible job in portraying a man who fights for his life. As the manhunt for Otomo grows wider, one of the more striking things about this film is how the score grows and enlivens the drama. Director Schaich does a fine job in illustrating a possible scenario that led to the outcome of Otomo. As a stranger in a foreign land, itís not easy to get a job, make good money, and live a happy life. Racism comes in all forms from religion, skin color, to plain jealousy. Otomo is an excellent film to possibly enlighten the viewers understanding of racism, ala German style. Of course this is not Hitlerís Germany, but after watching this film, one may wonder.


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