Santa Cruz Surf Film Festival: Review

The curtain has closed on Santa Cruz’s first annual surf film festival.  A great mix of films were shown and a surf vibe filled the salty air of the beach town.  Young and old, surfer and non-surfer, came out to view the collection of international films that celebrate the earth’s ocean and the wave sport.  The audiences seemed to mimic the characters of the stories.  An eclectic blend of people graced the screen and equally eclectic folks attended the screenings; droves of wonderful weirdos.  The excitement was palpable.  They would ooh and aah as a big wave surfer catches an enormous swell in Nazaré.  There would be hooting and hollering when Lakey Peterson wins the ASP world championship.  The man next to me during the screening of CREATORS: Clark Little could barely sit still as he squirmed with glee and vocalized his praise and admiration for the stunning photography. There was a collective buzz of awe and respect for mother nature and humankind at each showing.

The six features and the 13 shorts that accompanied them were chosen out of 60 entries.  The selection committee did an exemplary job of choosing with diversity and indiscriminate variety in mind.  All the films honor individuality rather than the stereotypical young, white surfer dude.  Oney Anwar, a surfer from Indonesia, has faced struggles in competition because of his Muslim faith.  Gay and lesbian surfers attempt to overcome hatred and build a community where they can be safe and free.  The Old, The Young, and The Sea and Elizabeth show that age doesn’t mean anything when it comes to surfing.  Some shorts lacked story or heart and seemed to be just beautifully shot YouTube videos, but most films were engaging and well done.  A common thread in these movies was a celebration of the ocean and the great outdoors.  The connection one has with nature was spoken about often by the individuals in the films.  Traveling was a prevalent subject, as well. The festival selection took the viewers all over the world from the snowy beaches of Norway, to Biarritz, known as the French California, to the southernmost waves of Patagonia.

The festival concluded with a closing night party held at sponsor, Sawyer Sand & Sea Supply’s westside shop. An apt locale for the festival with its hipster and surfer clientele and chic camping and outdoor gear.  Zeal Optics had their pop-up shop camper parked outside.  Pleasure Pizza, sponsor and local eatery, supplied the grub.  A screening of one last surf movie projected above a row of handcrafted surfboards.  The film was Expencive Porno Movie, an experimental film shot on Super 16mm.  It’s basically surf porn save for a few seconds of racy make out sessions or naked women running or playing the piano here and there.  This happened to be my favorite short even though it wasn’t a part of the official selection.  It had a groovy 70’s soundtrack and looked totally rad on the Super 16.  It would make a good addition to any surf film collection, as would most of the films in the festival.  Check out the Santa Cruz Film Festival Website for information on viewing, renting, or purchasing the movies shown, including the festival winners.  Best Feature went to Tierra de Patagones winning the filmmakers the coveted prize: an O’Neill Psycho III 4/3 wetsuit and a Nixon Supertide watch.  Best Short was snagged by The Fortune Wild which also won Best Cinematography and Best Soundtrack.  The Viewers’ Choice winners were Oney Anwar: Chasing the Dream for the feature and Rail to Rail for the short category.  The competition was stiff and has set a high standard for the festival in its first year, which builds the anticipation for next year.


Photo Source: Erin Allen

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