We can’t wait to get to Durban for the 14th iteration of the Wavescape Surf Film Festival at DIFF.
Our headline and opening film is the African premiere of smash-hit feature documentary Heavy Water: The Life and Times of Nathan Fletcher, by US-based South African Michael Oblowitz, who will be in attendance on Sunday at at the Bay of Plenty outdoor screening on Sunday 22 July.
MICHAEL OBLOWITZ – BIO
A South African filmmaker was born in Cape Town and holds an MA in Film from Columbia University. He went to New York in 1976 to escape Apartheid, where he met Kathryn Bigelow, the first female to win an Academy Award, at Columbia, while there on a scholarship. He was one of the pioneers of modern Indie film-making as outlined in the documentary Blank Generation. His early films included X-Terminator, The Is/Land (about Robben Island), Minus Zero and King Blank; all in the permanent collection of the Museum Of Modern Art, New York City. Oblowitz’s This World, Then the Fireworks (1997), starring Billy Zane and Gina Gershon, was an official entry at the Cannes and Sundance Film Festivals. Steven Seagal starred in The Foreigner (2003) and Out for a Kill (2003), while he directed SharkMan (2005), which starred William Forsythe. Oblowitz produced many commercials and music videos with stars such as David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Carole King, Carlos Santana, and John Lee Hooker. His film, The Traveler (2010), starring Val Kilmer, won Best Thriller Feature at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. Sea Of Darkness, 2010, won best film at Byron Bay International Film Festival, San Sebastien Surf Film Festival, X- Dance Festival at Sundance, and New York Surf Film Festival.
The film is one of 21 films Wavescape brings to Durban this year, including features and shorts from Sierra Leone, Namibia, South Africa, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Australia, Hawaii, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Canada, among others.
Wavescape Director Steve Pike, aka Spike, says that the lineup for DIFF was one of the most exciting in years. “We’re honoured to have another African premiere – the gritty documentary Secrets of Desert Point, a piece of pioneering surf history.”
Heavy Water promises an entertaining night out at the Bay of Plenty. “It’s a feature documentary, but views like an exciting action film. About the wild antic of big wave legend Nathan Fletcher, it 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.”
Oblowitz has said about that moment, “In this movie, Nathan’s dream comes true. He’s the only guys that’s been able to successfully do it – and he pulls it off. It’s mind blowing.”
From Monday 23 to Friday 27 July, Wavescape moves to Arena 5, Village Walk, uShaka Marine for five 6pm screenings, which are free. The screenings at uShaka open with a lineup of three short films and two features, the soulful Perilous Sea and Church of the Open Sky, a master piece of surf filmmaking by Australian director Nathan Oldfield.
Wavescape also screens the documentary Secrets Of Desert Point, an excellent piece of historical story telling 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 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, we 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. There is Adam, an award-winning short film about a Cape Town surfer diagnosed with a chronic form of cancer; or 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 top British surfers to Scotland for a refreshing surf trip on the doorstep of their home.
All Wavescape Ocean Festival films are free. The opening screening takes place on July 22 at Bay of Plenty lawns at 7pm – bring picnics, blankets and chairs. The rest of the programme takes place at Village Walk, uShaka Marine World at 6pm daily from Monday 23 to Friday 27 July.