Surfer Magazine’s top documentary of 2011 playing at SBIFF


Surfer Magazine nominated four films in 2011 as the top surf documentaries of the year. Three of them are being screened at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival, including the winner – Splinters – that was produced by one of Santa Barbara’s own, Adam Pesce.

Splinters, along with other top surfing documentaries Lost & Found and Mind in the Water, is playing this week at local theatres. For more information about the sports films at this year’s SBIFF, CLICK HERE.

Splinters’ first screening is at the Arlington on Tuesday at 8 p.m.

The idea for Splinters started when Adam – who called Santa Barbara home while growing up – heard about a village in Papua New Guinea, called Vanimo. The story’s seed was planted twenty years ago when an Australian pilot left behind a surfboard and Adam, a surfer himself, was “curious about how [surfing] unfolded for them.”

‘Splinters’ is playing at the Arlington on Tuesday night.

Adam, now 31 years old, finished college, packed up a bag, and flew to Papua New Guinea with a camera by his side.

Having studied international relations in college, and with an interest in film-making nourished by a brief documentary film class, this appeared an interesting project for Adam to embark on.

“It was a very personal project. I took my passions – travel, surfing, filmmaking – and combined them in a very intimate way.”

Adam remained in the village observing and doing research for a few months before returning to America, content with the experience but lacking a film.

Nonetheless, the trip to Vanimo was enlightening. Pesce made note of the difference in surfing style

“Many of the guys and girls who grew up surfing there lacked access to the videos and teaching methods that many American surfers grew up with,” he recalled in a recent phone interview. “Because of this there is a rawness to their style and technique that is interesting to watch.”

When the opportunity arrived two years later to return to the village, Adam jumped.

This time Adam was excited to attend the inaugural Papua New Guinea National Surfing Competition.

The first two months in Vanimo were spent sans camera. Pesce sought to immerse himself in the culture and went so far as to learn the national language of Melanesian Pidgin English, also known as Tok Pisin.

Adam’s committment to immersion helped the film. By knowing the language, Pesce received special access to the community. He became so adept at Tok Pisin that Adam himself translated majority of the film.

In total, Adam stayed in Vanimo for seven months, six of which were spent filming and documenting the lives of four individuals participating in the surfing competition.

The documentary revolves around two men – Angelus and Ezekiel – and two women – Lesley and Susan – who strive for the national title in surfing.

Angelus and Ezekiel surf in completely different styles, Angelus being of the aggressive type and Ezekiel surfing in an entirely different graceful and smooth manner. Adam came across them while residing in the village and easily convinced the surfers to share the story for the documentary. The two women were slightly more challenging to convince, for societal reasons. Lesley and Susan were hesitant because of the implications of competing in the national surfing contest.

Adam completed all the filming and returned to the states only to sit with the film by his side for another year before editing began. Now that the drawn-out process of making the documentary is completed, Splinters has gone on to make appearances at several international film festivals before Santa Barbara. Surfer Magazine named it the top surf documentary of 2011.

“It was an incredible moment as a filmmaker and a surfer. To have the film recognized by the surfing community is just unbelievably special,” Pesce said.

A screening is also scheduled this week in Los Angeles on Friday at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.