Too many crimes to list etc.
The academic journal Postcolonial Studies recently published an article by Assistant Professor of Hispanic studies at Pepperdine University George Arthur Carlse, PhD. in which he analyzed the 2016 surf film Um Filme de Surfe, starring CT surfer Yago Dora, Yuri Gonçalves and Lucas Silveira.
In the film, which refers to itself as a cliché in the opening scene, the three surfers go to Indonesia to surf perfect waves with no one out.
A short blurb by Surfer editor Garrett James, here, describes the film as “mixing equal parts foolery and play with high-action shredding,” which “can erase the seriousness that accompanies professional surfing nowadays.”
In contrast, Dr. Carlse feels that “The surfers engaged in racist, Orientalist hijinks, that reinforce the fratriarchal aspect of their constructed identities.”
There is a lot to unpack in there, as they say, but it seems his main beef with the film is a scene where the surfers perform a Polynesian war dance.
According to Carlse, the scene establishes the superiority and condescension felt by the visitors towards the locals. Carlse says it reduces the complicated cultural interactions of all surf travel to the idea of Westerners finding clueless locals living without any knowledge of the value of their own waves or even of the modern world.
It also highlights race as a factor in the hegemonic relationship between visitor and local, positioning the light-skinned Brazilians as modern, translocal Westerners as they play-act being timeless island ‘savages’ with darkened skin.
From Carlse’s paper:
In Rule 4, the narrator states, ‘You weren’t the first person to arrive in the area, so pay respect to the local traditions’ (translated in the subtitles). In this sequence, Leandro Dora, his face caked in mud and wearing a coconut husk for a hat, mimes teaching the boys a Polynesian or perhaps Maori war dance with a large stick. The surfers all wear crude grass skirts over their board shorts and their faces are again painted with mud. They stand at attention and then repeat their instructor’s slashing movements as if they were in savage military training. The scene is reminiscent of military recruits learning to fight from a boot-camp instructor mixed with exaggerated nonsensical shouts that are meant to seem Polynesian or Maori. Dora shouts in a fake primitive accent, Aki nóis é malaco, nós não arranha carro porque não tem carro, só pode chamar us guerreru (‘Here we are hotshots, we don’t scratch up a car because they don’t have a car, you can only call us warriors’ – author’s translation). When Leandro Dora says they can’t scratch up a car because the locals don’t have one, it suggests that, on this imaginary island, locals could never have cars because then they would not be ‘savages’. Talking about not seeing cars to scratch highlights both the pranks the surfers might engage in and the relative poverty of the region. Then Dora leads his students in repeating gibberish and shaking their staffs. In a later cut between surf footage, Gonçalves is shown, still in his mud mask and grass skirt, holding a stick between his legs doing pelvic thrusts.
In this scene, ‘respecting the locals’ is done through a transposition of Polynesian stereotypes onto their Indonesian locale. The surfers elide their own particular coastal Brazilian, upper-class, light-skinned cultural identity in favour of the ‘translocal’ surfer identity and they orientalise the specific local island identity by ignoring it. The actual rural, Indonesian Muslims who live on the island are replaced with an exotic, primitive, Polynesian-island stereotype. The scene reinforces the cultural and economic power imbalance between visiting surfers and locals in Indonesia.