MILESAGO - Media - Film
GETTING BACK TO NOTHING(1970)
Synopsis: Surfing documentary covering the 1970 World Surfing Championship at Bells Beach, Victoria
Robert 'Nat' Young
Premiere: Palais Theatre, St Kilda, Dec. 26, 1971
Fable FBSA005 LP (1970)
Stick On Incense (single) Fable, FB055
'This film covers the 1970 World Surfing Championship held at Bells Beach (Victoria). The action on and in the waves is interspersed with interviews of the participating surfers (including Australian champions Robert 'Nat' Young and Peter Drouyn) discussing the many philisophical aspects of their "art". The soundtrack was done specifically for the film - songs include the title track. Scenes of the crowd on the beach are also used, as is Melbourne city. General note: summary taken from viewing. Please note that NLA cataloguing cards list the location as Lorne (Victoria) yet the film states Bells Beach. Additional cinematographers: Gary Vaughan, Peter Sykes (who also did sound).'
Festival film recalls surf and sociology
"The reason I surf," said the doe-eyed young man on Bells Beach in 1970, "is the expression of myself that I can let out in the water ... I can't let that out on land.
"My every emotion, my every feeling about everything that ever happens to me, I can let it all out in the water."
There was a lot being let out in 1970.
"I'm talking about me riding waves," said a chilled-out Nat Young from underneath a floppy sun hat. "Preferably with no clothes on ... They're not even waves, they're just energy that comes out of the ocean ... I just want my personality to be expressed on that piece of energy."
These thoughts - and the blissful days when soul surfers chafed against competitors and when a toke from a joint was just the thing before paddling out - might have been lost to history had St Kilda Film Festival artistic director Paul Harris not seen a 50-minute surf documentary on the CV of pioneer Australian director Tim Burstall.
The documentary, on the 1970 world surfing competition at Bells Beach was called Getting Back to Nothing.
Harris urged Burstall, the director of Stork, Alvin Purple, and Eliza Fraser, to find the original for a screening during the festival, which began last night.
When Burstall found it, he realised he had not seen it for 25 years. He now looks back fondly.
"It's always been left off surf filmographies because it took a sociological look," he said. "It wasn't just about the waves."
Paul Harris was excited to see it was a time capsule of an alternative Australian lifestyle produced in the same year Easy Rider was being made in the US.
"I thought, 'This is interesting, Tim doing a surfing film'," Harris said. "Tim was up with the potters in Eltham; he was hardly hanging 10 down at the beach. He would be the first to admit his interest was in the sub-culture rather than the sport."
Getting Back to Nothing, with its freeze-frames, absence of a voice of God narrator, and close-ups of cans of Schweppes lemonade, is what would have been called experimental.
Images of languid surfers paddling out with Hans Poulsen on the soundtrack are interspersed with shots of commuters battling their way to work on Melbourne's trams. Shots of surfers on waves explode into red, a dazzling effect.
"It was a very dark day during the final so we shot in black and white and threw some color at it later," said Burstall. "We fooled around with a lot of experiments in the lab." The film is a fascinating insight into the way surfers and surfing were seen in 1970.
"They were regarded as complete drop-outs, hanging at the beach while everyone else was working," said Andrew McKinnon, a Gold Coast surf reporter.
"People just didn't understand the culture. We'd gone from hanging five on a longboard to tube rides, roundhouse cutbacks and re-entries. The media were saying they were long-haired, dope-smoking hippies. They didn't realise we were taking surfing to the next level rather than just walking the board and listening to the Beach Boys."
Tim Burstall agrees. "They felt as though they were outsiders practising a very exacting sort of art form," he said. "They rather liked the idea that somebody was trying to understand the phenomenon."
Surfing grew up in the year 1970. The longboard "Gidget" era had just wound up and the Australians - Nat Young, Midget Farrelly, Peter Drouyn and Michael Petersen - were discovering new ways to ride waves.
The problem was that at Bells in 1970, they were doing it on small, 5ft 10in "stubby" boards while the Americans and Hawaiians came to Bells with boards around the 7ft mark. The championship was won by a young American, Ralph Arness, the son of actor James Arness, who played Matt Dillon in TV's Gunsmoke. Ralph Arness retired after this event and went on to become a concert pianist.
In a way, Getting Back to Nothing is coming home. Its debut was at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda, on Boxing Day, 1971, as a support for Burstall's Stork. It will be screened at 10.45am on Sunday at the George Cinemas after which Burstall will talk about the film.
This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/2001/05/30/FFX72OWJANC.html
*Peter Wilmoth is the author of the book Glad All Over - The Countdown Years
REFERENCES / LINKS
Do you have more information about this film?
If so please
This page is part of a frameset. If you found it through a search engine, clickHERE to return to our main index frame.