‘Facing Monsters’ kicks off the Solento Surf Festival
The Solento Surf Festival, founded by San Diego native, surf filmmaker and owner of festival sponsor Solento Tequila, Taylor Steele, kicks off tomorrow at the La Paloma Theater with “Facing Monsters.”
“Facing Monsters” profiles surfer Kerby Brown as he takes on the intimidating slab waves of Western Australia. These waves move quickly, through the deep waters, then crash at full speed onto the shallow reefs.
“I’m chasing these different, unique slab waves,” Brown explained from his hotel in Australia where he was waiting to catch a flight to California to show up at the Solento Surf Festival. “Western Australia is such a raw, exposed coastline. There’s these crazy mutating bits of water and these waves coming out of really deep water on these really shallow rocky ledges. And they’re quite unpredictable and thugs, I guess you would call them. And I’m looking for these different pieces of water to try and ride, basically.”
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“Facing Monsters” conveys what that experience is like in stunning images that capture the beauty and terror of those waves. Cinematographer Rick Rifici took advantage of what advanced technology had to offer to shoot the film. He shot in 5K on red digital cinema cameras and used a prime lens so he wouldn’t “cheat” with a zoom. He also used a drone to get aerial shots that clearly show how shallow and treacherous the ocean was where the waves were lapping.
“It’s an angle that Kerby and I talked about that really shows the danger and the shallowness of the reef,” Rifici said. “It’s a really hard angle to capture. You can’t see it from land because we’re so far from the sea. No long lens will reach that far. Helicopters are very expensive and you have a time limit with the fuel So a drone was the obvious answer, and it really shows that shallow depth and also the thickness of the wave. It gives it a really good perspective.
It also allows us to see a bit of what Brown sees.
“That’s more what I’m looking at when I’m surfing the waves. I’m looking at the reef, and it’s cool to have that overhead view so people can appreciate what’s going on.”
You appreciate but also you wonder what could push someone to seek such vague monsters?
“There are a few factors,” Brown said. “A big one is just to take yourself away from everything. And these waves are so far away. They’re just in the middle of nowhere. And I really enjoyed it, getting away from everyday life and just taking yourself away completely and just to be in nature and to be among this raw power of the ocean.”
But “Facing Monsters” explores more than the waves Brown rides. It takes a deep dive into his personal life and his inner demons.
“I guess in order to make a movie about your life, you really have to look at things in your life that you might not have before and dig a little deeper into the reasons why you do things and the reasons that underlie them. tend and kind of all of that unravels in the documentary,” Brown said.
Brown longs for the danger and challenge of these vague monsters, but his obsession baffles his family who worry for his safety. We see the physical abuse the waves can inflict, so we can understand his wife and father’s concerns.
“I really wanted this to be a raw, honest look at my life,” Brown said. “I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything. I don’t feel like it’s trying to glorify what I do. It’s just a direct look at what I do.”
Rifici not only rose to the challenge of shooting rough waters, but also faced situations where he shot his friend thrown under a wave.
“There’s a moment where you’re rolling and you’ll see Kerby fade away, and you’re kind of waiting for him to appear, and it’s like you’re rolling over it, and it’s like, okay, do I gotta put the camera down now and jump in? Does he go up? And then nine times out of ten he would still pop up and he’d be fine,” Rifici said. “But these waves are just unforgiving, and every wave is different. Nothing breaks in the same place, so they’re really hard to calculate and to ride. You’ll see in the documentary, there’s the perfect example where things don’t go as planned. It was one of those times when, okay, it’s time to go into survival mode, almost. I filmed a bit, and then it was time to go into rescue mode a bit. So, yeah, things can go wrong pretty quickly, so you get a good adrenaline rush, which I love.
Rifici added, “Kerby decided to tell her story in hopes that it might help someone down the line and take them from a dark place to a better place.”
The films help you understand Brown’s obsession with the ocean, the adrenaline rush he gets from riding a wave no one else has conquered, and how he tries to balance that with his love. for her family. Although her journey doesn’t seem to be over, we get a glimpse of her struggles.
“Facing Monsters” kicks off its US tour at the Solento Surf Festival. It screens Thursday with an encore showing on Sunday. Following Thursday’s screening, festival founder Taylor Steele will host an in-person Q&A with Brown and Rifici.