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Entries in Surfing (2)

Saturday
Feb182017

GIVEN

Featuring: Aamion, Daize, Given and True Goodwin.
Writers: Jess Bianchi, Malia Mau and Yvonne Puig.
Director: Jess Bianchi.

Rating: 4/5

The ambitious scale and humanistic themes of Jess Bianchi’s Given come through with dazzling clarity from the opening frames of his beautiful familial odyssey. The debutant director’s chronicle of discovery and humanity is a wake-up call – an early close-up of a rooster in full morning voice attests to that. This is followed by images of a father, enigmatic surfing great Aamion Goodwin, and his 6 year-old son, Given, soaking themselves in the muddy goodness of the earth, while heavily pregnant wife and mum Daize swims deeply and naturally in the pristine ocean, the birthplace of our species.

The sequence sets in motion a grandly mounted, profound celebration of the family unit and the importance of the people and planet with which they share life’s path.

As the title suggests, the focal point of the narrative is Given, for whom the journey – 15 countries over 14 months – is tethered to his father’s own naturalistic upbringing and a mystical quest for ‘The Big Fish’, a symbol of fulfilment and goal attainment for the family. While the occasional use of  ‘movie magic’ undoubtedly helped create the angelic wonder with which he and his newborn sister True embrace the patience-testing nature of global travel, Given proves an engaging screen presence, for whom the wonders of the world hold infinite awe. His wise observations, often dreamlike in their interpretation of his journey’s arc, are mature beyond his years; the measured tone and philosophical musings feel very much of the filmmaker’s doing, but prove tonally appropriate and in line with the heightened reality of Devin Whetstone’s exquisite camerawork.

Bianchi embraces the tried-and-tested surf doco formula of utilising minimal on-screen dialogue, instead letting the boy’s narration and the stunning images do the talking. Most affecting are direct-to-camera portraits of people from countries as far afield as Iceland, Israel, Thailand, Senegal and Peru, to name just a few of the destinations for the cast and crew. The eyes of the world staring into Bianchi’s lens reinforce that regardless of cultural trappings and vast distances, a soulful singularity exists between us all.

The breathtakingly immersive, free-flowing lensing and the central parent/child dynamic recall Terence Malick’s infinitely darker drama The Tree of Life, which also examined the legacy of patriarchal influence. While that work focussed on the transference of demons between generations, Given portrays a more enlightened, wondrously unified bond between father, son and Mother Earth. Bianchi’s capturing of a family’s reconnection with nature, both their own and on a planetary scale, provides a bracing refresher course on the goodness of humanity.

Given will have its Australian premiere as the Opening Night feature at the Byron Bay Surf Festival. Full details can be found at the events official website.

Friday
Jun132014

IMAGINE: LIFE SPENT ON THE EDGE

Featuring:
RIDERS SKI: Jeff Annetts, Sam Favret, Mickael Lamy, Wille Lindberg, Tim Swartz, Drew Tabke, Jeff Leger, Nate Siegler, Casey Wesley
SPEED RIDING: Ueli Kestenholz, Dominik Wicki, Florian Wicki 
SNOWBOARD: Matt Annetts 
SURF: Matahi Drollet, Keala Kennelly, Alain Riou, Hira Teriinatoofa 
WINGSUIT FLYING: Ludovic Woerth, Mathias Wyss 
KAYAK: Shannon Carroll, Mariann Seather, Katrina Van Wijk, Martina Wegman 
KITE SURF: Tetuatau Leverd, Manutea Monnier, Mitu Monteiro, Rony Svarc 
STAND-UP PADDLE: Patrice Chanzy, Aude Lionet-Chanfour.

Director: Thierry Donard

Rating: 4/5

The latest from Europe’s leading sports documentarian, Thierry Donard, is a soulful, contemplative vision that posits the extreme sportsperson as the modern keeper of life’s great truths. Imagine: Life Spent on the Edge may prove too earnestly reverential for those venturing indoors simply for ‘The Rush’, but Donard has crafted an inspiring work that defines a spiritual unity between the athlete, his environment and our search of fulfilment.

Donard, whose Nuit de la Glisse (Night of Skiing) series of films have chronicled athletes pushing their bodies and skills to breaking point, wields the new Go-Pro mini-digicam unit with stunning efficiency and clarity. The sports footage is immersive and, at times, giddying. Skiiers dropped onto mountaintops weave fearlessly down sheer mountain faces as waves of avalanche snow cascade around them; Tahitian surfers glide through the tubes of giant waves; kayakers plunge over Icelandic waterfalls. Genuinely jaw-dropping is the helmet-cam coverage of wingsuit experts Mathias Wyss and Ludovic Woerth, the pair pulling 4Gs as they hurtle past rock cliffs and snow plains.

But the director also invests in an inordinate amount of backstory to provide an intimacy to his subject’s exploits. Champion surfer Matahi Drollet is the focus of Donard’s camera in Tahiti, but moreso for his decision not to ride the Teahupoo break given he has a one month old son. Similarly, Keala Konnelly returns to the ocean that nearly tore her face off in a horrific spill, determined to conquer her demons. Snowboarder Matt Annetts (labelled as a 'soul rider') speaks at length about the support his family has afforded him, allowing him a life of self-discovery via his sport.

Imagine: Life Spent on the Edge dwells not only on the beauty of the sport but also on the value of life balance. This is not a film drenched in sponsor’s tags or glammed-up with the shallow by-products of the macho sports machine (there is nary a bikini-clad beach beauty in sight). What Thierry Donard captures are dedicated, mature individuals for whom an adrenalized existence focuses the mind on what is ultimately most important – integrity, loyalty, family and friendship.