El Mar, Mi Alma from Rebel Waltz Films on Vimeo.
From the El Mar, Mi Alma, website;
With a long and diverse coastline Chile is a country not only shaped by its geography; the sea occupies a mystical and poetic conscious and unconscious place within the cultural fabris of the nation. The film is a visual tone poem, a blend of images and music featuring cinematic surfing sequences, coastal landscapes, insightful commentary and the movements of the cast on a unique surfing journey. With environmental themes and political undercurrent, the film paints a picture of Chile's beauty and association with the sea, centered around the intimate act of surfing.It was funny to read that this film is a 'visual poem' in the 'About' from the website this morning, because as I watched it that was the thing that kept popping into my head. There was no clear narrative or plot, rather the film tells a story about the relationships various people, locals and visitors, have to places, and the ways that those relationships play out in terms of what we can know and do. These things are important in how we go about our day, in how we understand our surroundings, and in how we make decisions about the ways we engage with the world - our behaviour, our choices, our impacts.
Perhaps all that sounds like some kind of hippy bullshit, but I don't think it is. I've always had a very strong relationship to the beaches around my home. I love walking along the sand, swimming in the water, catching waves. When I go to the beach and find discarded bottles, chip packets and other kinds of rubbish, it's upsetting. I feel as though it's been a one-way relationship where whoever left those things took no time to look around them and appreciate where they were, nor to consider that this place was special, if not to them, then to other. Some indigenous australian kids I met a while ago understand this as 'caring for country', where you take responsibility for the well-being of places, whether they are yours or not. This explanation makes sense to me, and I use it to motivate me to take responsibility for collecting the bottles left on the beach, as well as the rubbish left in more urban spaces - like my university campus. Of course, this film is refers to more than collecting litter. It's about environmental, social and cultural issues that, if you really think about them, feel overwhelming. But it's also about how lucky we are to be able to take part in the ocean in such a fun and intimate way.
Watching this film made me think about a conversation I had a couple of years ago, where I was asked what my favourite kinds of books are. Like, if you had to describe your overall genre, what is it? Mine was books about landscapes, country, coast, and the relationships people have to these places. El Mar, Mi Alma moves slowly and if you are looking for excitement or a film to get you pumped, then this is not the one. But for someone like me, who takes great pleasure in landscapes, light and colour, the slow-pace was welcome and I was happy to sit back and take it in. The soundtrack is gorgeous, the images lovely, and the surfing felt 'real', which I know is an odd thing to say. This is not a film that deserves harsh treatment or heavy critique - it's too sincere for that - and if you are looking for a way to get lost for an hour, then I encourage you to go along.