Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Highwater

This surfing documentary plays like a more intimate, folksy companion piece to its superior predecessor, Step into Liquid.

Aug 27, 2010

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/149353-Highwater_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In Highwater, filmmaker Dana Brown ventures to the fabled North Shore of Oahu to cover the prestigious Triple Crown surfing championship. It’s a follow-up to Brown’s 2001 Step into Liquid, which remains the definitive surfing documentary, unless you count the seminal work of his father, Bruce, whose idyllic Endless Summer pioneered the genre in 1966. This time around, Brown’s approach is cozier, less far-reaching, focusing on that strip of Hawaiian coast which includes the beaches Sunset, Pipeline, Haleiwa and Waimea where, every winter, the waves rise to towering heights, providing an irresistible magnet to the talented people crazy/courageous enough to try to tame them with their boards.

We are introduced to a colorful assortment of characters, all of them fierce competitors, including local Hawaiian favorite Sunny Garcia, whose irresistibly winning smile matches his name; Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm during a shark attack yet still rides the waves; the mind-boggling 13-year-old Jon-Jon Florence, who received his first professional sponsorship at age six; superstar cover boy Kelly Slater, who set the template for the blond surfer hunkdom that attracts such lucrative sponsorships, and phantom mystery guy Eric Haas, a North Shore legend given to wearing football gear while charging the most perilous swells. Many of them comment on the way the North Shore itself has changed over the years from a sleepy little township to million-dollar real estate which makes it difficult for lifelong surfers to even consider living there, which anyone who has experienced the bumper-to-bumper traffic, rivaling that of the Hamptons in July, can easily attest to. The film also highlights the spirited rivalry between the local Hawaiian surfers—few of whom actually possess native blood, most of them being as WASP-y as a Bruce Weber Abercrombie layout—and their equally Aryan Australian competitors.

It’s still very absorbing stuff, filmed with obvious affection and respect, but Brown gets a little carried away this time with cinematic trickery, like split screens, which often interrupt the actual surfing. As with dancing, which should be filmed in continuous takes in full body shots, I prefer seeing the full progress of the board through a wave’s tube; Brown’s flashy editing might give you exciting climaxes, but seriously interferes with the actual beauty, grace and hard-won accomplishment of this most easily photogenic of sports. The final competition itself is also given somewhat short shrift, after all the elaborate lead-in, with more verbal description of what happened than actual exciting footage.


Film Review: Highwater

This surfing documentary plays like a more intimate, folksy companion piece to its superior predecessor, Step into Liquid.

Aug 27, 2010

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/149353-Highwater_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

In Highwater, filmmaker Dana Brown ventures to the fabled North Shore of Oahu to cover the prestigious Triple Crown surfing championship. It’s a follow-up to Brown’s 2001 Step into Liquid, which remains the definitive surfing documentary, unless you count the seminal work of his father, Bruce, whose idyllic Endless Summer pioneered the genre in 1966. This time around, Brown’s approach is cozier, less far-reaching, focusing on that strip of Hawaiian coast which includes the beaches Sunset, Pipeline, Haleiwa and Waimea where, every winter, the waves rise to towering heights, providing an irresistible magnet to the talented people crazy/courageous enough to try to tame them with their boards.

We are introduced to a colorful assortment of characters, all of them fierce competitors, including local Hawaiian favorite Sunny Garcia, whose irresistibly winning smile matches his name; Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm during a shark attack yet still rides the waves; the mind-boggling 13-year-old Jon-Jon Florence, who received his first professional sponsorship at age six; superstar cover boy Kelly Slater, who set the template for the blond surfer hunkdom that attracts such lucrative sponsorships, and phantom mystery guy Eric Haas, a North Shore legend given to wearing football gear while charging the most perilous swells. Many of them comment on the way the North Shore itself has changed over the years from a sleepy little township to million-dollar real estate which makes it difficult for lifelong surfers to even consider living there, which anyone who has experienced the bumper-to-bumper traffic, rivaling that of the Hamptons in July, can easily attest to. The film also highlights the spirited rivalry between the local Hawaiian surfers—few of whom actually possess native blood, most of them being as WASP-y as a Bruce Weber Abercrombie layout—and their equally Aryan Australian competitors.

It’s still very absorbing stuff, filmed with obvious affection and respect, but Brown gets a little carried away this time with cinematic trickery, like split screens, which often interrupt the actual surfing. As with dancing, which should be filmed in continuous takes in full body shots, I prefer seeing the full progress of the board through a wave’s tube; Brown’s flashy editing might give you exciting climaxes, but seriously interferes with the actual beauty, grace and hard-won accomplishment of this most easily photogenic of sports. The final competition itself is also given somewhat short shrift, after all the elaborate lead-in, with more verbal description of what happened than actual exciting footage.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here