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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa
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Thu, 3 August 2017

A sold-out screening of the Patagonia film FISHPEOPLE in Cape Town last night capped off a mid-winter component of the Wavescape Festival, which included a bumper stint in Durban.


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SIX FISH TALES: Directed by Keith Malloy, the film celebrates us and the ocean.


Ten days after Spike showed 19 movies to packed audiences in Durban over a week-long addition to the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF), more than 180 people squeezed into Cinema 1 at the iconic Labia Theatre in Cape Town to watch just one film: an 58 minute documentary presented by Patagonia and directed by Keith Malloy.

They were joined on stage by Spike, Patagonia surf ambassador Dr Tony Butt, a "recovering academic" and big wave surfer; Grant Cleghorn, who is the creator of outdoor shop Gone that will offer an exclusive range of Patagonia gear; and Nigel Savel, founder of the 9 Miles Project, who was there to tell us about his work, and to receive proceeds from the evening that included a raffle for a R2,500 Patagonia hamper.

According to the synopsis, FISHPEOPLE tells the stories of a unique cast of characters who have dedicated their lives to the sea, who have experienced viscerally the transformative effects of time spent in the ocean. It tells a story of how humans can leave our limitations behind to find deeper meaning in the saltwater wilderness that lies just beyond the shore.

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DURBAN SCREENING: An average of 150 pulled in for 5 nights in Durban. Photo Spike


But it goes deeper than that, and has poignancy for saving the ocean and our wilderness marine areas, which is apparently close to Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard's heart.

As Dr Butt said in the Q&A afterwards, the film helps to prove that we're not just connected to the ocean, we're part of it. This means we're part of nature itself. And being part of it, by inference, means we can't dominate it or conquer it. We have to BE in it. Which of course makes it in our interests to protect it.

The characters in the film do so in their different ways.

Patagonia surf ambassador Kimi Werner swims around Lava tubes on the west side of the Big island, Hawaii, and has piggybacked on a white shark's dorsal fin. That footage alone is literally hair raising. Lynne Cox, a long-distance open-water swimmer of 60 years old first swam from Catalina to Palos Verdes when she was 14, and has swum the Bering Strait, the Strait of Magellan and around the Cape of Good Hope.

There is Matahi Drollet, a 19-year-old Tahitian surfer and fisherman who carries on the Polynesian tradition of living off the sea, and getting barrelled off his nuts at Teahupo'o. A bad knee injury to surfer Ray Collins lead to him giving up surfing, and his work in the coal mines of Woollongong in Australia, to take a leap of faith into the sea as a wave photographer.

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FISH PEOPLE: About 180 people packed out the Labia for the premiere. Photo Shani Judes


We are introduced to life-time surfer and social worker Eddie Donnellan who takes children from high-stress backgrounds in the inner parts of San Francisco into the ocean for therapeutic solace. This of course has resonance for Savel, who works with children from the Cape Flats through his award-winning programme the 9 Miles Project. The audience were interested to find out more.

The film ends with a wonderful little segment on free-surfing Dave Rastovich, who Joel Parkinson says in the documentary is the best surfer he has ever seen, and that's saying something from the 2012 world surfing champion. Rastovich tells how he turned his back on all the titles and lucrative career surfing to just go surfing. After an epic day surfing, he was told he 'lost'. How can you lose something you never won in the first place?

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