Ottomaticake reminds me of the joy that can come from documentary filmmaking. The amount of passion and happiness that exudes from every person on screen during this all too short feature is evident through and through. More so, it is obvious that everyone involved truly has a deep emotional attachment to the film’s subject, local legend Otto, proprietor of Otto Cake. The passion and personality of this man also shows in this documentary, and is so magnetic that it can bring anyone into his eclectic world of rollerblading, cheesecake, drag fashion, and punk rock.
I was born in Hawaii in 1997, and I only recently came back to attend college here at HPU. I have heard tell of the legend of Otto and his cheesecakes, but I had never indulged myself in them. As well, I had heard about the dangers of the Chinatown in Honolulu, and the crime and social problems that seep out of the pores of that town, yet I never experienced them for myself. Ottomaticake made me keenly aware of just how much the climate of drugs and homelessness are affecting the businesses just blocks away from where I sleep. What I thought would be the simple profiling of one of Honolulu’s most beloved figures quickly turned into an interesting and saddening look at one of Oahu’s most troubled areas. You always hear about the immense homeless and drug problems troubling this city, yet it is an even more sobering thing to see them so up close and personal, as the director of the film portrays them. As well, these problems adversely affect the businesses of the surrounding areas, and this is something covered deeply throughout Ottomaticake, as Otto himself tells of some of the horror stories he and other entrepreneurs experienced while located in Chinatown. Such problems are handled deftly by the cast and crew, and it personally made me even more wary of Chinatown than I already was.
Getting back to Otto, he is perhaps one of the most fascinating figures I have seen a documentary solely focus on, perhaps since the heartbreaking 2015 Academy Award-winning Amy Winehouse documentary Amy. His propensity toward rollerblading, drag shows, punk rock, Halloween costuming, and baking work to create a completely unique human being in a time where everyone wants to stand out. In a time such as this, it takes no effort for Otto to stand out, as his personality speaks for itself. The footage captured of modern and young Otto truly defines the man on screen, and works to create an endearing portrait of somebody just looking to be happy, as well as make others feel that same sense of satisfaction and familiarity.