Riding The Waves Of Glory

Riding The Waves Of Glory

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Mr Bongo Films 

Release date: June 3rd, 2011
Certificate (UK): 12A
Running time: 84 minutes

Director: Justin Mitchell

Writer: Vince Medeiros and Justin Mitchell

Official Movie Site

Arpoador Beach is home to some of the best waves in Rio de Janeiro, the birthplace of surfing in Brazil. Surfers travel from all over the world for the stunning views, pristine waters and prime surf, not least 13-year-old Fabio and 12-year-old Naama who live on ‘the hill’ – the favelas above the glitzy high-rises of downtown Rio, known as ‘the concrete’.

The film opens with Fabio and Naama being taken on a boat for the first time by their surfing mentor and father figure Rogerio. Their worries about the boat sinking are touching, as they jostle and show off to each other.

Rio Breaks

Rogerio is a surfing champion from the hills, and volunteers his time and effort at The Favela Surf Club for youngsters from the hills. It helps usher them away from the very real possibility that they’ll become another statistic caught up in the drug trade, or gunned down in a war between the traffickers and the police.

Where the Commando Vermelho (the Red Command) roam the streets, shooting warning shots should a police car drift by, orchestrating every movement within the community, The Favela Surf Club can literally safe your life.

Simao Romano, from the hills and an international surfing champion, is the poster boy for training hard, competing well, getting sponsorship and living happily ever after. Surfing offers them a way out. Rogerio, though, is fighting an uphill battle, as the lure of the street gangs is strong.

Rio Breaks

Talking heads tell the stories of those lost to the violence. Everyone has lost a brother, a son, a father, a friend. Cautionary tales are woven into every family; surfer’s who got “lost” to the war with drugs, ruined chances and splintered lives. The beach, in contrast, is the safety blanket of the community; it provides both hope and comfort, a way out for the boys and girls of the favelas.

Mitchell takes us into homes of Fabio and Naama, into the lives of their neighbours and friends. Theirs is a world where there isn’t any milk, or enough money to buy bread. It’s because of these scenes that Rio Breaks isn’t just another surf film. It peels back the layers of it’s subject’s lives, and injects the surfing with a new urgency. What will happen to Fabio if he doesn’t win the competition? What will happen to Naama if he loses his best friend and his desire to make something else from his life?

Rio Breaks gives the audiences a geo-political commentary rather than simply showing impressive waves and kids taking dives but largely manages to avoid polemic.

Rio Breaks

It would be difficult to get ugly shots in a place as beautiful as Arpoador Beach, and the very nature of the landscape lends itself to metaphors. The cramped, dangerous favelas flattening out into the calm and beautiful ocean where dreams can come true. But the slums are always present in the background, just as the kids can never truly escape their upbringing.

Rio Breaks is a poignant piece of film, as beautiful as it is painful. It’s more than just surfing; it’s a story about growing up, friendship, and survival.

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