Havana Surf (Rodrigo Diaz McVeigh, 2008): Spain
Reviewed by Jesse Solomon. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
Being from a small beach town in Southern California I have always taken solace in an end of the day surf flick. Havana Surf was something completely different then any other surf movie I have ever seen. In Rodrigo Diaz McVeigh’s Film Havana Surf he describes that for years individuals around Cuba have been using pieces of plywood, fiberglass, and styrofoam to make devices that somewhat resemble the surfboards that we see so commonly around the world today. Sometimes we forget that Cuba is a communist country with a long lasting embargo on it, prohibiting essential food from entering its borders and most certainly not surfboards. So we wonder how in fact a silly thing like surfing has transformed the lives of a few young Cubans, who have little else to hope for then good waves.
The way McVeigh filmed this movie gives it a very raw, somewhat un-cut feeling which is similar to the country of Cuba itself. Cuba has changed little in the last 50 years; all the average Cuban knows is their surroundings many have never traveled outside of their birthing villages and towns and have little to hope in their extremely oppressive environment. Because of this the vast majority of Cubans have never even heard of a surfboard, or even have a Spanish translation for “wave.” The Havana Surf is a group of young men who have created a special bound with surfing. Most of them conclude on the fact that surfing is the one thing that can take all of their hardships and worries away. Making them free for even a moment is something they cherish everyday. The Havana Surf had a website created for them by Bob Samin, an Australia who truly is looking for the good in the world. Samin has a created a network for these young men and their newly founded female counterparts the Havanitas Surf, creating connections with international surfers who need tour guides and are willing to bring these secluded youth surfing necessities, such as wax and wetsuits.
Overall this movie gave me a great hope for humanity, the footage of these surfers gives off such innocence, and their happiness is so easily caught up in a small wave or a new surfboard leash. Havana Surf gave me a complete different outlook on surfing, in the US it is seen as almost a sport of leisure, in Cuba it is more of a quest for a few moments of freedom.