Free screenings of surf films

A scene from Heavy Water: The Life and Times of Nathan Fletcher which opens the Wavescapes Surf Film Festival in Durban with a free outdoor Bay of Plenty screening on July 22.

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BY BILLY SUTER          

TWENTY-TWO films have been assembled for the 14th Wavescapes Surf Film Festival to be held in Durban, as part of the annual Durban International Film Festival, from July 22 to 27 – and the good news is that all screenings are free.

The event will open with a free outdoor screening on the lawns at Bay of Plenty, at 7pm on July 22. The film chosen is  the hit feature documentary Heavy Water: The Life and Times of Nathan Fletcher, by California-based South African Michael Oblowitz . Visitors are encouraged to take along picnics and chairs.

From July 23 to 27, at 6pm daily, free festival surf films – features and shorts from Sierra Leone, Namibia, South Africa, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, the UK and Canada, among others – will  be shown at Village Walk, uShaka Marine World.

Heavy Water: The Life and Times of Nathan Fletcher  is a feature documentary, but views like an exciting action film, says Wavescape director Steve Pike, aka Spike: “It is about the wild antics of big wave legend Nathan Fletcher, and also chronicles his relationships with the colourful, gritty characters of Hawaii’s North Shore. One highlight is when Fletcher enacts a dream to jump out of a helicopter with a surfboard right onto a giant wave, and surf it.”

“We’re honoured to have several other African premieres, such as the incredible story of Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark; and the gritty documentary Secrets of Desert Point, a piece of pioneering surf history,” he adds.

Wavescape closes with Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, the untold story of Hamilton’s journey from childhood to motherhood, and how she lost an arm to a tiger shark as a child.

However, her relentless determination turns her into one of surfing’s great pro surfers and big wave riders, despite her disability. Bethany rewrites the phrase “Surfs like a girl.”

A scene from Finding Purpose, about Durban surfer Tammy-Lee Smith.

The midweek highlight is the documentary Secrets of Desert Point, an excellent piece of historical storytelling by director Ira Opper, who chronicles the story of how a young Californian and his friends stumble across a perfect wave in the early 1980s. It came from leaky boats among the remote islands of Indonesia, but it was fraught with dangers, from drugs to pirates and deadly coral reefs.

Spike says there are also excellent films about travel – the quest for reach for something precious, like the soulful travels of a Moroccan who brings clean water to the poor communities of Africa while working his way towards the infamous waves of Skeleton Bay in Namibia.

The Seawolf is pure surf soul as we follow “eight surfers on a two-year journey to remote places to find the most dangerous waves on terrifyingly shallow rock slabs. Filmed in high definition 4k on Red Cameras, this is a enriching viewing experience”.

Several films tackle the emotional side of the human condition, such as Finding Purpose, a short film about Durban big wave surfer Tammy-Lee Smith who finds purpose riding big waves after pain and loss.

A Million Waves tells the story of Kadiatu Kamara, 19, who is left to face the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone alone after her dad dies. She finds hope surfing in the waves.

In Visit, viewers travel with a shy, former street kid from Durban on his trip to England to visit the land of the funders who saved him from disappearing down a dark and dangerous rabbit hole.

Another festival picks are Adam, an award-winning short film about a Cape Town surfer diagnosed with a chronic form of cancer; and Awen, in which we see the uncomfortable reality of a young Chinese man who clashes with his mother because she wants him to become a fisherman like his ancestors, but he just wants to go surfing.

However, beyond the pain of being human come films to celebrate the visual poetry of the natural world, and the spiritual enrichment that the act of surfing and being in the ocean brings. Sea Lone eulogises some of the world’s top women longboarders on a surf trip to Sri Lanka.

Shape Qui Rit is a cute short about a two-year-old girl who “shapes” her dream surfboard; Night Rose sees an elderly lady in England transported by a vision into the ocean for a night surf; Black Rain catches a session in the tropics that cracks with the sea surface chatter of a thunderstorm, while The Edge Of North follows British surfers to Scotland for a refreshing surf trip on the doorstep of their home.

A moment from Black Rain, a film which catches a session in the tropics.

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