Saturday, April 11, 2015

Breaking the Wave (orig. Rompiendo la Ola) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing*

Breaking the Wave (orig. Rompiendo la Ola) [2014] [IMDb] (directed and cowritten by Annie Canavaggio [IMDb] along with Vicente Ferraz [IMDb]) is a fun PANAMANIAN "SURFING DOCUMENTARY" that played recently at e 2015 - 31st Chicago Latino Film Festival about the surfing community at Playa Santa Catalina in Veraguas Province, Panama.

The film clearly plays-off of the common perception that surfing (though actually having its origins among the browner-skinned Polynesians of Hawaii and the South Pacific) is today largely a "white sport."  Yet presented here is a still largely quiet surfer's paradise where most of the confident yet laid-back and smiling surfers are black, mulatto and even indigenous Panamanian locals who've actually done increasingly well international surfing competitions.  (And at the end of the film, one these local surfers became the first black surfer - at least from Panama - to ever win a sponsorship contract from one of the world's major surfboard manufacturers).

So how does the life of this Panamanian surfing community compare and contrast with the perceived life-style of surfers worldwide?  Well, that's a good part of the movie ;-)

Differences noted would include that the Panamanian locals would probably be poorer than most of their counterparts from more industrially advanced countries.  As such, while certainly loving to surf, more than a few of them interviewed were also shown working hard in construction and harvesting jobs as they noted (if at times sadly): "you can't eat by surfing."

Then, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, drugs weren't portrayed as being a big part of the local surfing subculture.  Yes, having a beer with friends, especially among the older / mentor now 40-something coaches was deemed okay.  AND packages of cocaine were shown in the documentary as actually occasionally washing onshore (after presumably having fallen off of various drug boats).  BUT the father of one of the main surfers in the film spent four years in prison after being caught trying to sell one of these kilo packages of cocaine that he found washed-up on shore one day.  As such, most of the younger local Panamanian surfers interviewed in the film appeared to equate drugs with inviting problems that none of them (or their families) really needed.

It was also quite clear that religion, both popular Catholicism and charismatic Protestantism, played a significant role in the local surfing community as well.  Almost all of the younger surfers were one or the other -- Protestant or Catholic -- and certainly their families were.

Finally, it was clear that family -- parents and brothers / sisters / cousins -- probably played the most important role in all of their lives.  Perhaps that's why they worked first and surfed when they had time.  That's why appeared to stay away from drugs -- they didn't want to give their families needless problems.  And perhaps that's why they all seemed to be either Protestant or Catholic (again that's what their families were).  FINALLY, THEY ALSO CLEARLY ENJOYED TEACHING THEIR YOUNGER BROTHERS, SISTERS, COUSINS how to surf -- even if they didn't have a board for them to use (they just drew the outline of a "board" in the sand, and had the kids "pretend" ;-)

All in all, I found this film to be A DELIGHT to watch.  It makes total sense to me that people, the world over, watching waves come in from the sea would find the prospect of surfing those waves tantalizing.  I'm just happy as pie to see that people across the world are now increasingly doing so.  Good job! ;-) 

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