Splinters: Surf Movie Review


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Splinters is an intriguing new take on the surf documentary, characterized by the constant struggle between roots and culture and modernization. Set in the remote villiage of Vanimo, Papua New Guinea, the movie centers around Angelus and Ezekiel, Vanimo natives who dream of the good life touring the world as a professional surfer; and Susan and Lesley, surfing sisters who struggle to even get use of a board as they are forced by village custom to take a backseat to the men.

Director Adam Pesec gives us an in depth look at the social and cultural dynamics of rigid village life and the effect surfing has on it. Skill, emotion, and politics come to a boiling point at the very first national surfing titles competition held in Vanimo. For the four young village contenders winning this competition not only brings honor and prestige to their families but is the only hope they have of seeing the outside world.

This is the official description courtesy of Snag Films:

SPLINTERS is the first feature length documentary film about the evolution of indigenous surfing in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea.  In the 1980s an intrepid Australian pilot left behind a surfboard in the seaside village of Vanimo. Twenty years on, surfing is not only a pillar of village life but a means to prestige. With no access to economic or educational advancement, let alone running water and power, village life is hermetic. A spot on the Papua New Guinea national surfing team is the way to see the wider world; the only way.

Filmed in cinema veritéstyle, the film profiles several villagers in their quest to become professional surfers. Set at the crossroads of civilization in a land where cannibalism proceeded into the 20th century, the story is as much a tale of budding sportsmen chasing their dreams as it is the Old World fusing with the Modern World.

Angelus and Ezekiel are two friends destined for greatness but with distinct approaches to their goal of getting on the national surfing team. Self-assured and boisterous, Angelus is confident he is the best surfer in the nation while the talented yet gun shy Ezekiel lets his surfing do the talking. Fueled by glossy images in surfing magazines left behind by the odd-traveling Western surfer, the two young men are united in their fantasy of being paid wave riders. The female surfing prowess in Papua New Guinea is consolidated in one family. Lesley and Susan are sisters etching a new path in a male-dominated sport and a community where they are second-class citizens by simple virtue of their womanhood.

The upcoming inaugural Papua New Guinea National Surfing Titles is the ultimate ground for this surfing ensemble to prove its talent and will send the winner to Australia to train with world-class surfing athletes. This is the incipient step necessary to transform a humble villager to the first ever Papua New Guinean professional surfer. But, as with any scarce resource, fierce competition ensues and a rival village surf club will employ any means necessary to win.

Wrapped in a compelling visual aesthetic, SPLINTERS is at once a visceral dramatic narrative about a village grappling with its identity and young heroes using their surfboards to carry them to a better life.

Reviewer Rating

4

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Comments

  1. boo sexism, but yay surfin! =D

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