Friday, June 12, 2009

WATERFRONT FILM FEST REVIEW: Surfing 50 States...



I love a good trip.

The first film from directors/producers/everythingers Jonno Durrant and Stefan Hunt also happened to be the opening night film for the 11th Annual Waterfront Film Festival here in Saugatuck. It was a fitting way to kick off this years film fest.

Surfing 50 States is about as deep in plot as it sounds. It's not so much a narrative film or narrative style documentary, as it is a travel log, and it knows that. It follows the aforementioned Durrant and Hunt as they attempt to surf the 50 states of the USA. They surf water on the waterfront states, but when they get to land locked areas like Idaho, things not only get interesting, but they get creative.

While the film doesn't do much outside of following the two on their trip, that in and of itself, makes it a worthwhile watch. The true star of the film isn't the two men we follow, it is the people who allow them to stay in their homes, tow them as they try to surf a tiny lake, or help them fix their oft-broken down ice cream truck. I think this film really shines in the interchanges between the surfers and the people they encounter. Each person has his or her own moment to shine, and instead of being a simple stereotype of the area he or she is from, the people are fleshed out and allowed to breathe and become full fledged people within this film. There is one scene in particular, taking place in one of the Great Lakes States, involving a small group of 15 or so surfers who, while the waves are small, love surfing Lake Michigan. The sense of comradery and family is so heartwarming, that you really can't help but get involved in not only the people involved directly in the film, but for the people they run into.

Whereas, the film begins to falter a bit in the scenes that don't involve that ideal. It's basically a film in the form of a travel log that you would make with your friends on a cross country road trip, and while that is a fresh way to give a documentary, but it also makes it seem to play as a 90 minute music video. The soundtrack (which is beyond super) is constantly on in the background, and since the film must cover 50 states in an economic time frame, it jumps from state to state rather quickly, which takes away from the significance of some of these scenes.

That said, the film is extremely enjoyable, and very intriguing, which for a documentary, is quite important. If you are a fan of films in the style of say a skateboarding video or basically a surf video/documentary, then this is easily the one film you will want to see at this festival. The two leads ooze charisma and charm, and the film likewise oozes comedy and enjoyment. It isn't a strong film in form of narrative, as the basic conflict comes in the form of a car that continually breaks down, so it's not the strongest film, but it is one that you won't forget, especially the people that you will learn about. It's a solid documentary, that anyone can truly enjoy, and should, even if it's on DVD.

SURFING 50 STATES: 7/10

I will have MUCH more from this film festival as the weekend progresses, and you can expect reviews of 4-6 films within the coming days. Stay tuned!

Go see something good!

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