“To the Maxxx” maximizes festival’s appeal for action sport fan

The 25th Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, and for the sixth-straight year it will be serving up a serious dosage of adventure sports films as part of its “To the Maxxx” program.

The series, put together by local filmmaker Russ Spencer, was festival director Roger Durling’s idea, originally meant to honor the sport of surfing as part of Santa Barbara’s culture.



“(Roger) approached me just because he knew me,” said Spencer, whose own surf film, “Hana Surf Girls,” is having its world premiere at the festival. “He said, ‘How would you like to develop a program in the festival each year that is dedicated to surfing and other sports?’”

It was a perfect fit for Spencer, who had ties with several well-known surf filmmakers like Dana Brown and Jason Baffa.

“I’m a surfer so I’ve always gone to surf movies myself over the years,” Spencer continued.  “Everytime a surf movie comes to town, there I am in the audience like every other surfer in town. So it was very exciting for me.”

This year’s slate is headlined by “180 South,” a film directed by Chris Malloy that follows the story of adventurer and Patagonia clothing company founder Yvon Chouinard. “180 South” premieres at 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Arlington.

In all, “To the Maxxx” will present 12 entries at the festival, featuring five world premieres.

“I was really happy to hear that they were going to let us premiere “180 South,” which is a huge, huge deal,” Spencer said, who added that filling the program hasn’t been difficult as the festival’s reputation has grown.

“The festival has become known as the best place to show a surf film in the world so we do get a lot of submissions. That makes my life easier than it might be otherwise,” he admitted.

One such submission chronicles a story of Palestinians and Isrealis peacefully surfing together in the Gaza Strip while their countries are at war. “God Went Surfing with the Devil” will be showing on Monday and Saturday of next week.

On top of being in charge of the programming, Spencer has been busy directing his first surf film, “Hana Surf Girls.” It’s about two female teenage surfers from Maui coping with the struggles of becoming adults.

“After a time , (surf flicks) can get really frustrating because there’s no story there a lot of times. I wanted to do a movie that had a real story, but that also incorporated surfing,” Spencer revealed.

“Hana Surf Girls” premieres at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Lobero Theatre.

Other films include “Last Paradise,” which uses vintage original footage to relive the journeys that action sports pioneers, like Miki Dora, took over the past 50 years. The story begins in 1960s New Zealand and travels to some of the world’s best known “paradises.”

For those skateboarders in the community, Spencer has three films to offer. “Mission to Toyland” has been paired with “Bones Brigade Video Show” to present a strong double-feature. Mission is a world premiere and you can see it first on at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. “Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy” will run by itself on Tuesday and Friday of next week.

“People are starting to catch on that there are really entertaining, great films,” Spencer said. “We live in a surf town and it’s been really satisfying to me the way the community has embraced the festival as a way to see great surf films that you might not get to see.”


Friday, February 5

On the Pipe Five, 9:30 p.m.. Victoria Hall Theatre

Saturday, February 6

Last Paradise, 10:30 p.m., Metro IV Theatre (World Premiere)

Sunday, February 7

On the Pipe Five, 10:15 p.m., Metro IV Theatre

Mission to Toyland, 7 p.m., S.B. Museum of Art (World Premiere)

Monday, February 8

God Went Surfing with the Devil, 4 p.m., S.B. Museum of Art

Tuesday, February 9

Mission to Toyland, 1 p.m., S.B. Museum of Art

Last Paradise, 3:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy, 10:15 p.m., Metro IV

Wednesday, February 10

Shaped + Surfing Dolphins, 6:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

180 South, Arlington Theatre, 8 p.m. (World Premiere)

Thursday, February 11

Hana Surf Girls, Lobero Theatre, 7 p.m. (World Premiere)

Friday, February 12

Shaped, 12:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

180 South, 3:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy, 9:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

Saturday, February 13

Mt. St. Elias, 12:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

Out of Place, 1 p.m., S.B. Museum of Art

God Went Surfing with the Devil, 9:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

Sunday, February 14

Mt. St. Elias, 12:30 p.m., Victoria Hall

Hana Surf Girls, 1:45 p.m., Metro IV Theatre

Out of Place, 3:30 p.m., Victoria Hall