"There an irony to him being named Sunny because such a complex, sometimes dark side to him," says Death and Taxes director Michael Oblowitz.
Michael Oblowitz is one of my favorite film makers ever. You may recognize his name from the still unreleased masterpiece Sea of Darkness or the just released Nathan Fletcher film Heavy Water but Michael has also spent the past decade working on an unabridged documentary about the life of Sunny Garcia currently titled Death and Taxes.
A decade working on one film is a long, long time but Sunny necessitated it.
“Right when I think we’re finished…” Michael says through his gravely South African lilt “…Sunny will say, ‘Oh, I also spent my childhood hanging around with such and such.’ And then we have another important interview to chase.”
I called him for a bit of insight.
He has sat with thousands upon thousands of hours of footage of Sunny, with Sunny himself and with so many of Sunny’s friends and family.
“During the 10 years of filming, Sunny has lost so many people close to him. Marvin Foster, Andy Irons, Buttons, Jay Adams. People so integral to his life and that’s just so… hard. I regard Sunny as one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Where he came from and what he achieved? I mean, a lot of great, great surfers came out of Makaha but only one of them won a world title and what Sunny had to go through to get it, the racism, abuse, cards stacked so high against him, it is a tremendous work.
There’s a line in the film where Sunny says, ‘I wanted to be the Mohammed Ali of surfing.’ And he was. He really was. But for all the love, for all his accomplishments, I don’t know that he ever felt it. We have some footage, after he won the HIC Pro in 2016, which was an amazing victory. There he is with the big cardboard check and his grandson on his arm. It should have been the most victorious feeling but I just don’t think it was for him.
“There an irony to him being named Sunny because such a complex, sometimes dark side to him and I don’t mean drugs and alcohol. I’ve never seen him take so much as one sip of beer. He worked out. That’s how he chased the demons but they were there.”
“We are all praying, even atheists are praying. That’s how much we love this guy.”