Not quite the Mountain Dew-soaked ode to extreme that it has been in the past, this year’s To the Maxxx category is a treasure-filled grab-bag of thought-provoking surf films, mountain bike documentaries, skateboard devastation tours, a mother’s look at her son’s rise to water polo glory, and the obligatory death-defying motocross debauchery. But don’t let the downshift fool you — not only is this year’s lineup still holding more than a few “Holy shit! I can’t believe that just happened” moments, but it’s grown to include some truly artistic, satisfying films. And with six world premieres, the maturation seems to be agreeing quite nicely with the film fest’s only purposely misspelled category.
The fun starts with Billy Savage’s documentary-styled look at the birth of mountain biking in Klunkerz. À la the wildly successful Dogtown and Z-Boys skate doc a few years ago, Klunkerz takes you back to the first baby steps of mountain biking in the hills of Marin County in the late 1960s and ’70s. Classic footage and even more classic denim-armored characters — some of whom have gone on to become mountain biking royalty like Gerry Fisher and Joe Breeze — makes this an enjoyable, educational, and entertaining movie.
Then there’s the world premiere of the S.B.-flavored skate film Cali Summer. Erik Hatch’s travel-mentary chronicles the antics of several skaters as they barnstorm California, pillaging every skateable surface they encounter while traveling from Oakland to the O.C. Knowing no road trip is complete without a wee bit of alcohol-infused fun, the boys break up the skate sequences with healthy doses of raucous hedonism.
Another world premiere is Chasing the Dream, which examines one part of the weird, cutthroat billion-dollar business surfing has become in recent years. Directed by Angelo Mei, the film follows eight young wannabe pro surfers from Huntington Beach High School as they chase their dream of one day being on the World Tour, and all the ugliness they encounter along the way.
Of Wind and Waves presents the truly inspirational tale of the 94-years-young surfing, gliding, and sailing legend Woody Brown. Rough around the edges, but full of timeless advice and captivating stories, this bio-documentary from San Francisco’s David Brown tells the story of one of surfing’s most overlooked legends. There are true gems of wisdom hidden in this movie that are rewarding for all.
Sunday, January 28, features the most To the Maxxx films, starting with two unicycle films that will show before We Just Work Here. From the makers of last year’s To the Maxxx hit Pure Sweet Hell, this year’s entry proves an interesting trip inside the eclectic and talented artists, craftsmen, and athletes of Santa Cruz Bicycles. Later that day is Beneath the Surface, which reveals the life story of Olympic water polo hero and current UCSB coach Wolf Wigo. That night at the Arlington, the surf travel film Peel: The Perú Project, an on-the-road adventure full of empty, perfect South American waves from young filmmakers T.J Barrack and Wes Brown.
Perhaps the best film in the category — a maybe one of the true hidden treasures of the entire festival — is Zen and Zero, a gritty, melodic, surf-stuffed tale of five Austrian surfers looking for philosophical enlightenment and waves on the road from Los Angeles to where the road ends in Costa Rica. Made with a shoestring budget and shot in 16mm, this movie has been taking festival audiences by storm for the past year.
At the back end of the festival is the world premiere of The Forgotten Coast. With footage from the furthest corners of the world, this movie puts the spotlight on some underground surf nomads who risk life and limb for tube time in the tropics.
And lastly, the “wow” factor is sure to be in full effect when On the Pipe 3 has its world premiere on Tuesday, January 30. The latest from motocross’s biggest names and shot entirely in high definition super 16mm, the action regularly begs the question, “How come these guys haven’t died yet?”