Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival: Groundswell takes a surfing safari to the Great Bear Rainforest

Threat of Enbridge pipeline looms over documentary short's gorgeous, evocative images

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      When the Raincoast Conservation Society decided to put together a coastal expedition to B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest to showcase its irreplaceable wilderness values, it wanted to present things a bit differently than the usual environmental documentary.

      So it brought in filmmaker Chris Malloy, a former pro surfer from California, and some surfing buds: his bro (literally) Dan Malloy, Trevor Gordon, and B.C.’s Peter Devries.

      The result is a great little doc (just under a half-hour) with some outstanding wildlife and landscape photography and one of the more unusual hooks for a film with a message: wandering the GBR’s coastal crevices in a 21-metre sailboat, looking for pristine swells.

      With the prospect of supertanker traffic in those waters if the proposed Enbridge tar-sands bitumen pipeline to Kitimat gets pushed through, there is a sense of urgency, and poignancy, to the images on the screen.

      Heiltsuk First Nation members discuss the value and significance to their people of the land, rivers, wildlife, and ocean and emphasize their opposition to oceangoing oil in such dangerous waters.

      As one puts it: “Anything that threatens this place also threatens the people, also threatens the culture, also threatens the food of our entire existence here.”

      But it’s this surfari’s action shots that will have the boarders craning their necks. The pros catch some pretty nice waves, some seeming as big as five or six metres, often with only a solitary deer or bear as an audience.

      Watery wildlife abounds as well. As director Malloy told Outside magazine’s adventure blog in March 2012: “I've never been in water with so much life around me. There were bears on the beach with salmon in their mouths, orcas in the water around the boat, bald eagles in the trees. The coastline is like nowhere else on Earth. There's huge surf, big winds, it's so tempestuous that everything has to be just right to get good waves…It was as amazing as any surf experience I've ever had.”

      Great original music by California’s Todd Hannigan and English folkie Roo Panes is a highlight and suits the evocative images like a form-fitting wetsuit.


      Groundswell plays at North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre on Tuesday, February 12, at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival’s Environmental Night. There will be three guest speakers/presenters as well as three other short documentaries: A Winter North: Skiing the Sacred Headwaters; Rocking the River With Yow & Pow; and Reflections: Art for an Oil Free Coast.