Bustin' Down The Door

2008, Movie, NR, 95 mins

Review

BUSTIN' DOWN THE DOOR
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Jeremy Gosch's documentary about the origins of professional surfing shines a light on four wave riders – three Australians and a South African – who helped transform a counter-culture life style into a billion-dollar industry.

The film takes its title from a 1976 Surfer magazine article by Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew who, with fellow Australians Peter Townend, Ian Cairns and Mark Richard and South African brothers Michael and Shaun Tomson -- exploded onto a then-lazy surfing scene like a trash-talking whirlwind, showing up native Hawaiian surfers and ushering in a new era of mediagenic, bad board boys. In the process they created a vicious rift between laid-back, old-style surfers, for whom conquering waves was an avocation – something close to a religious calling -- and a brash generation of up and comers who dared imagine that they might actually be able to make a living doing something they loved. They also helped take the sport mainstream, completely changed the mainstream perception of surfers as druggy, counter-culture drop outs pioneered and rode some of the world's wildest waves on primitive boards that make modern-day surf gods like Kelly Slater shake their heads in sheer awe.

Grosch shows his hand early, by opening with the 2007 Association of Surfing Professionals Championship Award Ceremony, at which the contributions of Townend, Bartholomew, Richards and Shaun Tomson were recognized with honors that didn't exist when they first mounted their boards. He lets Townend, Bartholomew, Richards and Tomson tell the story without glossing over its less attractive aspects, including their blatantly self-serving and strategically brilliant self-branding as "the bronzed Aussies" and the brutal backlash against this "new crew" of haoles determined to hijack the last thing native Hawaiians could call their own. Grosch never explicitly addresses the element racism played in the rise of the blue-eyed blonds, and he doesn't have to: The fact that most of the Australians grew up as poor and socially marginalized as their Hawaiian counterparts pales, if you will, beside their corporate-endorsement friendly, teen-idol looks. None became as rich as subsequent generations would, but they all did better than they could have imagined; if their reminiscences are tinged with nostalgia for a simpler, less commercial time, they're also colored by the knowledge that they got exactly what they wanted. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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