Ottomaticake came about much like Otto’s cheesecake—an unexpected surprise beginning, followed by many challenges, and a joyous end. As a long time friend of Otto, I filmed his performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch not even thinking of making a film. When he faced difficulties with the bakery in Honolulu’s Chinatown, I realized that his story could help others. I took this film as an experiment to face my own creative fears. Unlike my previous documentary film Ella Es El Matador (She is the Matador), I shot this film myself over a period of four years and worked with my generous editor Kyung Lee for the past two years. We completed the film production for under ten thousand dollars mirroring Otto’s do-it- yourself spirit. I took a leap of faith relying on the big-heartedness of others, and an exceptionally talented film team. Through Otto, I am reminded that no matter who you are, if you are truly authentic and true to your gift, you can carve a place for yourself in the world. I am grateful to Otto for teaching me how to be a more resourceful, less worried, and more joyful filmmaker. Otto has much to teach us about living locally, authentically, creatively, and choosing to surround ourselves with the ingredients we love in our lives. No matter what, he has an eternally youthful spirit. I hope to have captured Otto’s true essence and that in watching the film you take a piece of his inspiring world with you. I am honored to share Otto’s story with all of you at the 2017 Hawaii International Film Festival and beyond. For Otto, its about cheesecake, punk-rock, and rollercoasters. For me, its about teamwork, storytelling, and faith. What secret ingredients bring you joy? Aloha.

—Gemma Cubero del Barrio
Writer, Director, Producer, Camera



Stills from the film


World premiere at 37th Hawaii International Film Festival – Made in Hawaii Competition.

Broadcast Premiere on PBS Hawai’i and PBSHawai’

“Delicious, gritty, perceptive… This film has many layers”
—Jeannette Paulson Hereniko, Founder of HIFF

“Another outstanding made-in-Hawaii documentary was Gemma Cubero del Barrio’s “Ottomaticake.” Her title hero, the single-named Otto, is a former punk rocker who has been making cheesecakes in Honolulu for the past 25 years. An affectionate portrait of an unconventional individual, the film is also a disturbing examination how drugs and crime have impacted Otto and other small-business owners in downtown Honolulu, driving some to the wall. But his cheesecake, as I discovered at a lunch sponsored by NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema), is worth traveling — and fighting — for. “I’ve made every cake with this right hand — no machines,” Otto himself told me proudly at an HIFF party. I hope he’s still making them when I return.”
— Mark Schilling, Film Critic – Japan Times

“Loved it! Such a fun profile of a unique human being, with serious social undertones.”
—Tom Rhys, MovieMaker Magazine

“A New Yorker piece in film”
—Stewart Yerton, Honolulu Civil Beat

“Pure Joy! It was great to see someone with no reading ability create such a wonderful thing. It was beautiful.”
-Doris Duke Theater Audience Member

“Really great. I feel like I got to know him like Gemma said thru the eyes of other people. This story is really inspiring to US audiences especially small business owners.”
-Mary Michelle Baghdady, Reaction after Doris Duke Theater Screening