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About The Production
The idea of a contemporary retelling of Othello set in the arena of competitive high-school basketball was that of screenwriter Brad Kaaya. The only black male in an all white high school, Kaaya identified with the heroic figure of Othello for many reasons. Like many teenagers, Brad Kaaya loved to play basketball, and chose to set the conflict of O on a basketball court rather than a battlefield. The male characters in O are warriors on the court, and Odin is the fiercest and most heroic of them all. In a school and a town where basketball is paramount, Odin James is king. This modern adaptation widens its focus to examine the complex lives of a group of teenage basketball stars and their entourage, as well as issues of interracial dating, substance abuse (in particular steroids and cocaine) and school violence.

After developing the screenplay at the Sundance Institute Writers Lab, Kaaya sent the script to director Tim Blake Nelson, who received it while acting on location in Australia in Terrence Malick's THE THIN RED LINE. An Obie Award-winning playwright and director of the film EYE OF GOD, Nelson was initially not interested in yet another  teenage adaptation of Shakespeare's work. "I thought there were probably too many teenage Shakespeare adaptations floating on the movie screens, so I resisted even reading the script," says Nelson. "But once I read it, it really stuck with me." Nelson felt Kaaya had modernized  Shakespeare's play beautifully, "while infusing it with every bit of passion and human frailty that exists in the original." Her agreed to direct.

Nelson and Kaaya worked for a solid year revising the original screenplay. They sent off the script to producers Eric Gitter and Dan Fried, who immediately fell in love with the script. "We're both fans of teen genre films, but we felt that the audience had matured a bit," says Fried. "So many teen films are horror films and comedies, a little bit exploitative but fun. We thought it was time to stop pandering to that audience and give them a film that had some meat on the bond, some real substance."

After reading the script, the producers watched Nelson's earlier film EYE OF GOD and were "blown away by it," says Gitter. "We flew to New York to meet Tim, and had this terrific Italian dinner," he adds. "We knew instantly that this was a project for us after reading the script and meeting with Tim. It was like magic." The director and producers began a search for the perfect location for the film. They cam close to filming in Toronto for economic reasons, but the decision was made to film entirely on location in Charleston, South Carolina, where history and race relations have a unique resonance. This tragic story of a contemporary interracial couple is set against the backdrop of ante-bellum architecture and old oak trees draped with Spanish moss.

"We had collected photographs from film commissions from two dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada," says producer Eric Gitter. "Ten we narrowed it down to two-Toronto and Charleston." Fried adds: "Toronto economically the most reasonable place to shoot, but in the middle of the night, after we had already made the decision and told everybody we were going there, I woke up in a sweat and called Eric and said, 'I just don't think we can go to Toronto.' In other to make a more beautiful film, we had to come here. It's just an incredible place."

"Charleston gives the story a specific and pointed setting," says Tim Blake Nelson. "Place Odin on a distinctly ante-bellum campus, in a crisp school uniform, among the similarly dressed soions of former slave-owning families, and the rhetorical value is immeasurable."

The production team then put together an ensemble cast that includes some of Hollywood's fines


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