Gorillas in the Fog - Nova Scotia surf Video - review by Malcolm Johnson
Itís no secret that most British Columbians are imprinted with a robust and often strident collective superiority complex. Itís for good reason, of course, but thereís certainly an inescapable coastal tendency to view the country to the East as a land to be either pitied or ignored. An expanse of spent wheat fields and suburban sprawl, the thinking goes; a bleak tundraland where people do inexplicable things like swim in tailing ponds and drag race on frozen lakes and cast ballots for Steven Harper. The truth is, however, that Canada as a whole is a noble and spectacular place, a country possessed of great richness and diversity in culture and geography. And our cultivated insularity is probably to no-oneís detriment but our own.
As surfers, though, weíve always been hip to the East. There have always been those stories brought back by guys who went out there and scored on autumn swells, guys who came back swearing they got grinding beachbreaks and mile-long top-to-bottom points with no-one out. The photos that have run in the magazines in recent years with the Photo:Yazzy credit have only served to confirm the Maritimes in the wandering minds of West Coast surfers: long, perfect and desolate waves, mindsurf material running for hundreds of yards with nothing but a solitary pickup in the foreground. Gorillas in the Fog, the strange and entertaining second film from Nova Scotiaís Pat Bannister, does even more to disassemble any remaining items of Western superiority; until, that is, the shot of a shapely left rolling through a slush of broken nearshore ice. Thatís the thing with this DVD: remembering that, despite all those Rincon imitations, the winter water there makes the South Island feel like a nice warm float in the tub.
With a runtime coming in at just under 40 minutes, Gorillas in the Fog certainly doesnít suffer from a lack of footage. The standout surfers are Nico Manos and Lance Moore, but one of the filmís pleasures is its inclusiveness; most of the core East Coast crew is represented, and there are cameo appearances by some of the founding fathers of the culture there. And while the action isnít Campaign 2, the everyday surfers on the Atlantic side are a competent group of guys who definitely know their spots well. Thereís also a certain satisfaction to be had in watching surfing that the bulk of the Canadian surf community can relate to; guts aside, S-turning down the line on a sloping right makes a great deal more sense to most of us than watching Jamie OíBrien switchfoot into 10í Pipe.
That all being said, the real strength of Gorillas in the Fog is the waves themselves. Itís 40 minutes of ridiculously fun-looking waves, with 5 minutes of downright epic waves thrown on top. The overhead rights at the 10:40 mark could be lifted straight from J-Bay or the above-mentioned Queen of the Coast, and the brief scenic at 27:00 could be Lower Trestles on the best day of the year; the sequence at 29:00, with its overhead rights in sunlit sheet-glass conditions, is stupidly perfect, and the walled, warm-water lefts from the summer segment could be small Mangamaunu in reverse. Bannister also includes a few minutes of footage from the 2005 Red Bull Ice Break contest, with Manos, Ryan Carlson, Sam Hammer, Dean Randazzo, Jesse Hines and a few others surfing all-out in long overhead lefts, and itís undoubtedly the best surfing in 35-degree water thatís ever been committed to film. Nova Scotia is a temperamental place as far as waves are concerned; but when itís on, itís really on, with offshore winds tearing spray off the tops of marching ruler-edged lines.
With its worthy representations of Atlantic Canadaís waves, Gorillas in the Fog is certainly an appreciated addition to the slowly expanding oeuvre of Canadian surf film. It has a stoked, local feel throughout, and thereís a refreshing lack of pretension. The film never tries to be what itís not, and there are images that speak volumes about the East Coast: a swallowtail fish planted nose down in the snow, guys walking to the surf through seaside fields, a dad walking out to tandem with his little gromette of a daughter. The soundtrack, like that of most surf films, is varied; but the music is all local to the Maritimes, and the contributions by Joel Plaskett, Slowcoaster and Old Man Luedecke are particular highlights.
Thereís not much more to be said about this charming little home-grown film. Itís the only surf film ever with an actual UFO sighting, the only one with a handycam claymation short, and the only one to open with a quote from Marcus Garvey: ďOur desire is for a place in this world, not to disturb the tranquility of other men, but to lay down our burden and rest our weary backs and feet by the banks of the Great Ocean. To sing our own songs and pray to our gods.Ē Those with even a passing interest in the East Coastís surf should do what they can to track down a copy. Be aware, though, that Gorillas in the Fog may leave you with more questions than answers. ďWhatís going on with the guy in the gas mask,Ē youíll think. ďAnd whatís the purpose of the Fantasy Interlude, with its slo-motion beach walk set to Barry Whiteís Canít Get Enough of Your Love? And who, pray tell, are the accordion-playing gypsies who appear as the film runs to its close, waving goodbye before turning away to ramble east along the Elysian road?Ē
- Malcolm Johnson
click to enlarge
check out a 2 minute trailer - 1meg
Email Pat Bannister to purchase your copy of Gorillas in the Fog