Monday, May 6, 2013

"Isolated": Surfing Action Film Turns Political

To listen to the KUCI Subversity Online podcast of our interview with director and screenwriter Justin Le Pera, click on: .
"Isolated" is a truly impressive sports action film that stands out for its politics and not just its amazing photography of waves towering over intrepid surfers.

Director Justin Le Pera has assembled an hardy cast of five world-class surfers who head to Indonesia in a quest for the "perfect wave."  On the way to find that wave, they run into pockets of Papuans in remote, isolated areas of the archipelago, local villagers who are seeking liberation and an end to their suppression and genocide by the Indonesian military.

We talk with Le Pera, who also wrote the script, in the wake of the successful screening of "Isolated" at the recently concluded Newport Beach Film Festival.  You can listen to the KUCI Subversity Online interview with him today in the link at the top.

After the western surfers learn more about the Papuan resistance, they embrace the local villagers and bond with them.  In fact they return to the area and find that although some villagers have moved to avoid redevelopment others remain and kids they train to surf still practice the sport!

Although it didn't start off as an ethnographic study nor a political film, it has managed to present not just an ethnography of the local Papuans but also a political lesson for surfers and other viewers - who may not be thought of initially as taking on such a political cause.  The film, narrated by actor Ryan Phillipe, shows how the team of surfers, only one of whom spoke Indonesian, managed to sidestep the political pitfalls in their quest for the perfect wave although the sole female surfer, Jenny Useldinger,  almost dies when she falls ill in the middle of a jungle but survives in the end.

Through the film's web site, viewers can become "ambassadors" to bring attention to the Papuan cause by recording and posting videos of themselves supporting the call to end the killing and for peace to result. Ryan Phillipe appears on a video there.   One can also sign a White House petition there.

All in all, well worth watching, with its stunning images, more so for its political message. -  Daniel C. Tsang.

Credit: Photos courtesy of "Isolated"

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