San Diego Surf Film Festival rides into La Jolla, May 21-23

This year's festival selections and events to feature global, sustainable themes

San Diego Surf Film Festival

When: May 21-23, 2015

Where: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s Sherwood Auditorium, 700 Prospect St., La Jolla

Tickets: $5-$20

Pre-sales, lineup and more info: sandiegosurffilmfestival.com

The organizers at San Diego Surf Film Festival (SDSFF) must be doing something right, as its audience continues to swell, year after year.

Having outgrown its founding home at Bird’s Surf Shed, organizers of the fourth annual SDSFF have secured more spacious digs in La Jolla, at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s (MCASD) Sherwood Auditorium.

This year’s SDSFF, to be held Thursday, May 21 through Saturday, May 23, includes a diverse lineup of feature films, documentaries and short films (many of them U.S. and world premieres), as well as art demonstrations, an auction and a tribute to the late surf photographer and cinematographer, Sonny Miller, 7 p.m. May 21.

Miller, who produced some of the most renowned surf films of the ’90s, including “Searching for Tom Curren,” passed away last summer at age 54.

“Sonny Miller is considered one of the greatest cinematographers that the surf world has ever known and a legend in the local surf community,” said SDSFF co- founder and La Jolla native Pierce Kavanagh. “He was a groundbreaking filmmaker.”

Kavanagh said one of the opening night feature selections, “Strange Rumblings in Shangri La,” is a nod to Miller’s work. It follows a group of surfers traveling to the holy grail of surf spots, from the waters of Iceland to the tropics of Mozambique.

“It’s basically a modern ‘Endless Summer,’ where these guys travel to all these exotic places around the world chasing perfect waves forever,” Kavanagh said. “Sonny’s family is going to be there, bringing a lot of the equipment that he used. We’re going to have a special presentation with his friends and family.”

SDSFF organizers accepted submissions for three months, whittling 75 entries down to 24 to be screened during the festival.

“We had a screening panel of eight people who are all involved in the surf world somehow, people from their 20s to their 50s — a pretty diverse panel,” Kavanagh said. “Narrative is king in our festival. We look for strong narrative films, important stories. It’s really a story-driven festival about unique surf cultures from around the world. ... They’re really deep, well thought-out films.”

One of the films offering a distinctly global perspective on the sport is the documentary, “Into the Sea,” by French director Marion Poizeau. The film chronicles the trajectory of three women trying to introduce the sport of surfing to Iranian men and women — Irish surfer Easkey, Iranian snowboarder Mona and Iranian diver Shalha. Each view surfing as a way to bridge cultural and gender divides.

“They thought they could get thrown in jail, that anything could happen to them,” Kavanagh said.

“Basically, women over there can’t do anything, but the people actually accepted it, to the shock of the people making the film, and it covers that really well.” Kavanagh’s wife, SDSFF co-founder Petra Kavanagh — who previewed all the films and served as the selection panel’s tie-breaker — said she favored the Saturday afternoon short film, “El Chino,” about a man whose family runs a market in Boston’s Chinatown and starts his own surfboard shaping business — in an area where there isn’t much of a surfing scene. She also favored the Friday afternoon short “Foliage,” about a group of young skateboarders who ride beneath tree boughs and overhanging bushes as if they were surfing inside the tube of a wave.

“It’s very tongue-in-cheek, very silly, but very smart,” Petra said. “The dialogue is definitely the key.”

In addition, the short film, “What Does Freedom Mean to You?” chronicles the life of La Jolla resident and photographer Aaron Goulding, a former professional bodyboarder whose life story includes moving to Sweden and forming the wildly successful Swedish punk rock band, Pridebowl, which toured 30 countries, released six major label albums and appeared in a Swedish Pepsi commercial. The film, which began as his friend Graham

Miller’s college video project, turned out so well the duo submitted it to SDSFF.

Related SDSFF events

SDSFF will also include a plein air painting demonstration, 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday with previous festival artist, Matt Beard and colleagues, painting down by La Jolla Cove.

In addition, Beard and artists Skye Walker, Nathan Ledyard, Paul Elder, Keith Boyd and Heather Ritts will be painting live during a kick-off reception, 6-9 p.m. Wednesday, May 20 at Green Flash Brewing Company in Mira Mesa, with music by La Jolla’s Saline Solutions.

Their work, as well as wetsuits, clothes and other surf gear from industry sponsors, will be auctioned off during the event to raise money for SDSFF’s nonprofit beneficiary, Encinitas-based H20 Trash Patrol.

The organization started with beach cleanups and now also organizes cleanups of local jetties and estuaries.

“They go in with paddleboards and pull out literally tons of trash that would never be taken out of these areas,” Kavanagh said, adding that SDSFF attendees are invited to join an H20 Trash Patrol beach cleanup the morning of May 23 in Encinitas.

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