Turn the dial to 11!
As you may, or may not, know I have spent the past two-ish years working on a documentary about the wonderful Lisa Andersen. During this period I have thought constantly about documentary films. About what makes them good and what makes them bad. About triumphs and pitfalls. It is a deceivingly difficult genre, I think. The narrative seemingly writes itself but each decision along the way colors the truth and either alters or focuses history.
My favorite documentary of all time is The Kid Stays in the Picture.
My favorite documentary of the year is Wild, Wild Country.
They are as brilliant as they are beautiful and if you have not watched I highly recommend.
My least favorite documentary is any that falls headfirst into hyperbole. Sport’s documentaries are particularly plagued by this disease. On the field exploits somehow get magnified through the camera lens and turn into momentous, earth shattering, never-before-seen-or-imagined events. Athletes turn into world re-shapers. It is unfortunate, I think, because the amplification of everything to “totally, once-in-a-millenia amazing!” means that nothing is totally amazing. When the dial is constantly at 11 where else can it go?
And so it is with a bit of wincing that I anticipate the upcoming Momentum Generation documentary. You, of course, watched the original surf films by Taylor Steele and starring Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Ross Williams, Paul Roach, Benji Weatherly, Shane Dorian etc. For surfers, these films form an important part of the canon but let us read a touch from Rolling Stone, who interviewed some of the boys while they play in New York.
A crew of surfers who helped change the sport tumble into each other’s company in a new clip from Momentum Generation, a documentary executive-produced by Robert Redford (among others), that’s set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The film tracks the rise of athletes who eventually “win world titles and forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond,” according to a statement from the directors, Jeff and Michael Zimbalist.
In the Momentum Generation teaser, the surfers come together as a group for the first time. “We all knew each other from surfing different amateur events,” Rob Machado says. “But it wasn’t until we stayed at Benji’s house that we became a posse.”
The fact that Benji Weatherley had a house ideally situated for surfing was actually accidental. “My mom and dad split up,” he remembers in the film. “She went to Hawaii on vacation. She came back and said, ‘hey boys, get in the car, we’re moving to Hawaii.’ And it happened to be the north shore of Oahu.”
“We didn’t even know that Pipeline and Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach [all popular surfing destinations] were down there,” Weatherley’s mother adds. “This was how naïve we were.”
That changed quickly. Ross Williams and Shane Dorian were two of the first surfers to start visiting Weatherley’s house regularly. Soon the group of aspiring stars ballooned to include Kelly Slater, who went on to win 11 World Surf League world championships, Taylor Knox, a member of the Surfing Hall of Fame, and many others.
Oh I want to see, I want to like, but the director quote, “…forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond…” worries me. Did Benji et. al. really forever reshape worldwide culture in the 1990s and beyond? Do mothers in Tibet’s isolated mountain villages name their sons Conan Hayes Namgayl Wangchuk? Do fathers in the Congo’s dense jungle regale their daughters with stories of a longhaired man named Donovan Frankenreiter? Has anyone, literally anyone, on earth who is not a surfer and/or related to a surfer ever heard of Ross Williams?
Or am I just being a picky bastard?
You tell me!