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Time Out New York Project: Issue #778/779, August 26-September 8, 2010
Dir. Dana Brown. 2008. N/R. 90mins. Documentary.
There’s an eerie calm about the surfers in Dana Brown’s unfocused documentary, filmed during the 2005 Oahu North Shore Triple Crown. Even at their most frazzled, the perpetually wide-eyed gazes and soft-spoken demeanors of these devoted men and women suggest they’ve attained a Zen-like higher consciousness. Nothing much fazes them, not even the loss of limb, life or lower-body movement. The ocean is their God, and Brown, a surfer himself, looks on with an insider’s respect and awe.
Would that his filmmaking style (call it Final Crutch Pro) lived up to his passion. The director splits the screen into overly busy panels and quadrants, cutting so haphazardly between Triple Crown events that it negates any suspense over the three-month contest’s outcome. His voiceover narration is an eye-roll inducer, what with its simplistic aphorisms (“Fear is the new black”) and fairy-tale invocations of Cinderella at the ball. Only when Tahitian surf legend Malik Joyeux drowns during a qualifying round does the ADD aesthetic settle down. The outpouring of love and affection is incredibly moving, and there’s a wonderful sequence where Joeyux’s colleagues and family hold an in-ocean memorial. But then it’s back to distracted business: Notwithstanding Brown’s occasional half-baked critical comment about the sport’s corporatization, the film ends up as a cliquish circle jerk that flatters those in the know and leaves neophytes little to mull over.—Keith Uhlich