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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 30, 2004

North Shore film festival features best surf movies

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

With Sundance on her mind and Capt. Haleiwa in her heart, independent filmmaker Sherrie Robertson is hoping to restore a bit of good old North Shore community feeling with this weekend's first-ever Surf Drive-In Film Festival.

Kevin Naughton chases a wave in Fiji in "Far Shore," which documents his surfing misadventures with buddy Craig Peterson.

Craig Peterson

Singer Jack Johnson, left, and camera-man Sonny Miller bike in "Kokua."

Steve Barilotti

"Surfcheck," set in Byron Bay, Australia, features actor Nathan Kaye.

Barbie English

"Change the Subject" documents epic surf contests and the world's best waves.

Lynch Film

Malia Verdadero stars in "Kamea," about a young female surfer guided by the spirit of Duke Kahanamoku.

Jennifer Akana-Sturla

"Singlefin: Yellow" follows the life of a surfboard as it passes from friend to friend.

Jason Baffa

The festival features 21 top-quality surf feature films and documentaries. It runs Thursday through Sunday at the Waialua Community Association, 66-434 Kamehameha Highway.

Robertson, who grew up in Niu Valley, said she hopes the festival will evoke some of the togetherness people used to feel at the old Haleiwa Theatre.

The popular North Shore theater was demolished in 1983, despite a heroic stand by Capt. Haleiwa, a mysterious helmeted protester armed with gallons of used motor oil and rotten Egg McMuffins.

"Capt. Haleiwa stood up for the community," Robertson said. "He had no fear."

Robertson, a first-time film festival director, is taking a less confrontational but no less heartfelt approach.

"It was a big loss when the theater was destroyed," Robertson said. "VHS and DVDs kept everybody separated after that. I'd like this festival to bring people back together."

Given the impressive mix of films Robertson has collected, it shouldn't be a problem filling up the 300-seat hall.

Tonight kicks off at 8 p.m. with a Hawaiian blessing followed by screenings of "Kamea" (which won an audience award for Best Short Film at this year's Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival), "Pororoca: Surfing the Amazon," and the world-premiere of Bill Ballards' "The Mystic." The Surf Cinesta Party gets under way at 10:30 p.m.

The festival has been nearly a year in the planning. Robertson, who was selected to participate in the prestigious Sundance Filmmakers Lab in 2002 and again this year, visited festivals nationwide, got recommendations from friends in the industry, and personally screened dozens of film submissions to arrive at this weeks collection of shorts and feature-length films.

While her current emphasis is on drama, Robertson is a veteran of the surf-film industry. She made "Eat Sand" and "Liquid Supernova" with her Isle Groove Entertainment company, and directed a segment of "Tropical Madness."

In selecting the 21 films for this week's festival, Robertson said she considered not just great surf footage and cinematography, but also strong stories.

"What was so inspiring about doing surf films was being able to travel all around the world and tell any kind of story, but all of it involving ocean elements," Robertson said.

"There is definitely a consciousness about quality surf films now," Robertson said. "There were so many poorly done slash-and-burn movies before, people got tired of the brain-drains. Now there are great films by Moonshine Conspiracy (Jack Johnson's company), Stacy Peralta, Jack McCoy ... there are films that all ages can watch and be inspired by."

Surf Drive-In Film Festival
  • Thursday through Sunday
  • Waialua Community Association, 66-434 Kamehameha Highway
  • $8
  • www.surfdrive-in.com
And Waialua will be the best place to catch the latest and best surf films. Robertson's selections include five world premieres, three U.S. premieres and seven Hawai'i premieres.

In recent years, the surf-film industry has been energized by the ongoing influx of female surfers and filmmakers, a movement that has brought a different aesthetic to the way surf films are presented.

Tomorrow's "Ladies Night" celebrates that energy with the Hawai'i premieres of "AKA: Surfer Chick" and "A Girl's Surf Addiction," and the world premieres of "Surfcheck," and "The Obsession Sessions."

Later in the week, the festival also will screen two classic surf films, "The Endless Summer" and "Five Summer Stories."

Sherrie Robertson

Other events include a tribute to legendary surf-film innovator Bud Browne and a bonfire chat with some of the top surf filmmakers today. Both events take place Saturday.

Robertson said proceeds from the festival will go to Empower North Shore and Friends of Shark's Cove.

For a full schedule of films and other information about the festival, see www.surfdrive-in.com.