“Surfing evokes in us a deep connection with our soul and identifies something that is beyond imagination, beyond words,” writes Morning Of The Earth director Albert Falzon. It’s a sentiment which sums up to a tee the feeling, the essence, the spirit captured in his groundbreaking cult film which February just gone, celebrated its 40th anniversary.
|Hawaii, early this year. Pic by Jon Frank.|
As he wrote those words, not too long ago, Falzon was embarking upon a new journey, one which for a lot of people has been a long time coming. Along with fellow acclaimed surf filmmaker Andrew Kidman, Falzon has begun work on Spirit Of Akasha, “a new film and soundtrack celebrating 40 years of Morning Of The Earth,” – essentially a film inspired by that other-worldly feeling you get when at one with the ocean, as expressed so truthfully and eloquently by Falzon four decades ago.
“It’s a journey, you can’t plan for it,” Kidman muses on what the pair have come up with so far. “We’re three or four months into it and what’s been one of the most interesting parts, is working through the ideas you have and going, ‘Well, that’s really the spirit right there’, or, ‘That isn’t’. That’s to do with how things sound, how things are filmed… and it also has to do with the people you end up working with. And I think that’s how it has to be… the people who are involved in it, whether they’re musicians or surfers or whatever, they’ve really got to understand what that film was, because if they don’t, I don’t think it’ll transcend into the new film.”
Kidman is responsible for, among other things, the films Litmus (1996) and Glass Love (2006), and fronts The Windy Hills, who soundtrack surf films live, and who will contribute to the upcoming Spirit Of Akasha soundtrack. He was approached last year by Falzon and executive producer Chris Moss, but given he’s grown up with MOTE, he understandably had some initial reservations about the whole project.
“Well, I was nervous,” he smiles, sitting on the step of his van on a property out the back of Mullumbimby on the NSW north coast. “For me, MOTE was such an iconic piece of filmmaking. Along with the music it’s such a part of our culture. To assume that you can do something like that [again]… I wasn’t sure about it. But at the same time, I was like, ‘It’ll be a real challenge to try to make something like that today’, so much has changed.”
“But in the same sense, so much hasn’t changed,” he quickly adds. “I mean, you still go down the beach and have a surf. I really think the spirit of surfing is still there everyday if you just wanna paddle out and enjoy whatever part of that it is that you do, and I think MOTE was that. Surfing has changed so much and it’s changed so many things about the world, but in its essence, it hasn’t changed.”
The question remains then, how do you go about capturing that? When Falzon made his film in 1972, professional surfing didn’t exist, the first pro surf event wasn’t held until around a year later – surfing is an industry now. As well, the original locations in Bali and Hawaii are vastly different to how they were four decades ago, the world is a different place. So can the Earth be born again?
|Hawaii, early this year. Pic by Jon Frank.|
“Well that’s not the film we’re trying to make I don’t think,” Kidman counters. “We’re not just going out to make a documentary about MOTE… we’re trying to make a new thing. But I think it’s time in many ways. We understand how important MOTE was… I think this is the right time. And that’s the challenge, to make it like that but also not make it a sappy homage to it, you’ve got to be critical of what’s going on in our [modern] society too, and I think that’s what the original was in some ways. So it’s how you do it. And I don’t think you can really find that stuff out until you go through the whole production of it.”
As far as content for Spirit Of Akasha goes, Kidman is tight-lipped, refusing to reveal which surfers they’ll be filming (“It’s part of the surprise,” he smiles), or which bands will be contributing to the soundtrack, almost as important a part of the film as the visual footage. Thus far they’ve spent time in Hawaii and the east coast of Australia, there are no plans to return to Bali. It’s an ongoing project, with a tentative release date of early next year, striving to re-capture a primal spirit which exists on an untamed frontier, within the confines of a tightly controlled, rule-fuelled world; perhaps one of the most primitive pastimes still available to a human being.
“It gives to us love and beauty, unconditionally, and asks nothing in return,” Falzon writes. “When you ride a wave, you enter another zone, a place so peaceful and perfect, a place you know so well, a place beyond any realm in the outside world. Timeless and formless – where everything is so perfect – you want nothing else. Riding a wave is the magnetic attraction that keeps us linked to other worlds.” Falzon caught this on film 40 years ago. It’s this spirit that must channel through to Spirit Of Akasha in order to keep it true, to keep the essence alive.
Samuel J. Fell