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Surfer© Teen Confronts Fear

jenkins · 8 · 1884

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on: February 11, 2018, 04:01:44 PM
the only person i know who can make a movie a cult classic before it opens works at New Bev. he's directing the magic of his intuition at Surfer© Teen Confronts Fear.

there isn't a lot of information about this movie but there's some. such as this

There's a sixty-five second trailer on YouTube, and it takes less that that single minute to illustrate that this film inhabits that James Nguyen/Tommy Wiseau nexus of hubris, narcissism, and ineptitude. It would appear that the film is a sort of vanity project, as it's written/produced/directed by one guy: Douglas Burke - who claims to be a physics professor at USC (on the film's exceedingly '90s-style website), but whose bio at said website betrays a New Agey spirituality. Burke has a role in the film, naturally - but it's really a vehicle for his son, who is the titular "Teen [who] Confronts Fear."

and this

The most exciting film of the year is coming to Los Angeles for a one week run at the Laemmle Music Hall starting February 16th. Following the 7:20pm screening on Saturday, Feb 17th, the writer / director / star is scheduled for a Q&A. This will be essential insanity.

the movie's website

Surfing since as young as he can remember,
at the age of 13, Sage is crippled by fear
after suffering a wipeout on a huge wave.
The wave slammed him to the bottom and held him
pinned there without air until he nearly died.

With his whole life still ahead of him
yet now paralyzed by fear,
Sage no longer surfs the waves.
But unable to ignore the mystical and
powerful pull of the ocean,
he fishes in the surf,
and finds more than he bargained for.

This is the story of a teenager who confronts fear . . .


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Reply #1 on: February 11, 2018, 07:00:34 PM
I thought the guy second from the right on the poster was Elias Koteas at first, it had me concerned
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Reply #2 on: February 11, 2018, 09:27:14 PM
i'm magnetized by it being a noticeable oddity with a clearly positive message.


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Reply #3 on: February 12, 2018, 01:52:30 PM
i'm magnetized by it being a noticeable oddity with a clearly positive message.

You had me at "works at the new bev" but then I watched the trailer and it seems like one of those hippie culture pseudo-propaganda films from the sixties (is there a proper name for that genre?) and I'm going to see this in NoHo, no doubt


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Reply #4 on: February 19, 2018, 06:54:29 PM
he thanks Phil and i think everyone had a good night but oh i don't know about this movie's future --

Simon Barrett, The screenwriter of Blair Witch just watched his first movie in 18 months, so of course he wrote about the experience for Talkhouse:

Opening narration informs us that Surfer had a bad surfing accident and is now scared to surf, so he just fishes all day to be near the ocean. One day while fishing, he sees a man drowning, causing Surfer to cut his fishing line, run out into the water, run back to shore, then run back out into the water and save the man.

The man Surfer rescued turns out to be his father, Jack. Surfer is confused because he was under the impression that his father died “in a war.” Jack confirms that this is accurate, he is dead, and tells Surfer to feel his hand, shouting that it feels like “hard jelly.” He explains that he asked God to help him return to the mortal realm to give his son advice, and yells, “God made me out of squid and electricity.” That matter resolved, Jack gives his son advice in a lengthy oceanside monologue featuring a 12-minute continuous shot, during which Jack proclaims, “There’s always a whale crying somewhere in the ocean,” and at one point screams, “I am living in an iron maiden of pain, boy!” This causes Surfer to shrug uncomfortably and look at the ground, as if vaguely worried that some of his friends from school might walk by and see him. Anyway, the gist of the whole speech is that Surfer needs to confront his fear.

To move things forward, Jack forces Surfer to look at a dead whale, then tells him to go to an address and ask the man there, Banks, for money to go surfing. Once at this location, Surfer finds that it is a secret military hospital where, in a shocking twist, his father is a patient, alive but brain damaged. Banks, a military doctor, tells Surfer that Jack was an elite, government-trained assassin who, on his last mission, swam through shark-infested waters in order to attach a bomb to a boat. However, Jack was caught in the explosion and has been semi-comatose ever since. After a scene of hypnotically repetitive dialogue, Banks gives Surfer money to go surfing and Surfer goes surfing.

Narratively, this is the end of the film; however, we see Surfer surf, go surfing again, then surf some more. Roughly about half of Surfer’s 96 minute runtime is comprised of home movie and vacation footage of Surfer surfing. Sage Burke, to his credit, seems to be quite good at surfing, which is I suppose why his father decided to make a film about that. You will have time to contemplate this extensively.

At the screening I attended, Doug Burke was present for a Q&A, although his son was not. Doug cheerfully noted that Sage “won’t get anywhere near this theater,” and said that his now 16-year-old son told him, “I just can’t handle that right now.” Reportedly 11 years in the making, Surfer was conceived as a silent film, then transformed into something more like a narrative when Doug Burke decided to rekindle his longtime love of method acting.

Other key information delivered at the Q&A was that Doug Burke’s original cut of the film was 6½ hours long, at which time he asked the movie’s editor to help him shorten it, and the score was composed by Doug watching the final edit and humming along to it, then recording his humming and giving it to a composer. We all had many more questions. At one point in the film, Jack tells Surfer that Surfer was saved by the spirit of a sea lion, which is is never referenced again, causing me to genuinely think I imagined it. I asked about this, and Doug Burke’s reply was helpfully recorded for posterity by Jason Eisener in the video below:

[ Invalid YouTube link ]


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Reply #5 on: February 22, 2018, 01:47:28 PM
more than the movie itself perhaps, since i haven't seen the movie, i like hearing people digest the movie. for example:

I have watched this Dad Film unfold onscreen twice now and still haven't processed it entirely, but gotta say that I haven't had this much disorienting fun in a Cinema in a long while, since maybe MSG, Messenger of God at a matinee in the near abandoned AMC 20 in Norwalk. Between muffled WTF laughter and gasps of confusion, the guy behind us was negotiating the cognitive dissonance of watching Surfer at a matinee on Presidents Day by proclaiming comparisons out loud to The Room and Dangerous Men, and I understand why, but IMO, Surfer and MSG are a more accurate couple. These two self produced Other films are quite different in almost every way, but both definitely go naked skiing down the slippery slope between documentary and propaganda, in ways that the other films steer clear from. I took pleasure in the refreshing lack of self awareness in the fictional recreations similar to The Room and Dangerous Men, but something else was sincerley gluing my eyes to what was shining through all that surfing footage. The plot of Surfer is kinda straight forward-ha! but it is, and a big budget industry film can be made of the same tale, but the vulnerability and earnestness of how Douglas Burke literally loses his mind on camera over the course of 11 years as we see him lens Sage, his son, time travel back and forth between the different shapes and sizes of his childhood body and various adolescent haircuts, sometimes, often happening in the same scene, proves that true grit and authenticity can be found somewhere in the tangled yarn being spun. This anarchy creates such reckless adandon and disrespect for continuity and reality, that I found myself wondering more about who Douglas and Sage really were outside the world of the film and what it was like for this father + son team to make this movie. I really started empathizing and even rooting for them and asking myself- is this REAL? Just like how I questioned whether the guru in MSG was for- real, while watching this film, my mind was left to imagine what Sage's mom was like, or where they ate that day...

I can't even coherently write what I mean cuz it's "like a dream that hasn't happened yet, but it will!" The surf scenes are caustic and jarring in relation to the story in a way that reminds me of the Rabbits in Inland Empire. If Lynch made this film, it might be called Newport Beach. There are definitely some premium zinger lines in this film that snapped me back into the comfortably unstable reality it was painting. I really thought about fathers and sons in a way that I never had before seeing Surfer. First of all, the second time through- was just as funny and sad and spiritual as the first, but I made a concerted effort to watch Sage in the 2nd go, esp. when his father Jack was dadsplaining the shit out of his own resurection conflating FEAR with an OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME A WARRIOR. Here, Sage really looks like he is being forced to play this role. The role of son. Is Jack God? What is the fear they keep on harping about- it can't be only about getting back in the water, can it? I began to see the real Douglas/Jack as a spiralling insane stage dad, only wanting to better his and his sons life, or more accurately, a surf dad that was admitting to living his life through his son, on screen, in the water, from beyond the grave, within a government conspiracy at the Lee Strasberg Military Hospital, with theater games riffing and fractalling off infinitely in a home movie wave of fatherly pride, masking all unintended stress and neglect of his real life son, Sage- who really looks a lot like his dad. There is a moment when Dr Banks shows Sage a picture from an ID of Jack from 20 years prior, and says, "almost like looking in a mirror, isn't it?" as the camera gives us one of it's signature uncanny moves, slowly zooming into a slightly out of focus Sage, who appears to be truly frightened or traumatized. Emotionally, Sage must be exhausted by the making of this film. I somehow ended up thinking about another father and son duo in Hollywood and how odd the name Sage was common to both. For those that know the story of Sage and Sylvester Stallone, you understand why Surfer almost brought me to tears at times. If you aren't familiar with Sage Stallone, I will let your imagination get under your skin as you discover on your own that Sage Stallone might have been compelled to see this unique screening and it would have been interesting to get his take on the father and son dynamic.

On screen, Jack's ego and id vomit somehow come off as the best comedy America has to offer in 2018 countering the film as possibly being one of the scariest the year has to offer- a perfect snapshot of TODAY.

"Give this kid a Coke" is a line so deftly written and delivered with such impeccable timing that it boggled my mind as to why Dr Banks would utter such words - this film is held together with such goldmines that it kept me on the edge of my seat waiting for more, and boy does it deliver!

With the sun still up as I left the theater, I became overwhelmed with joy and paranoia and curiosity that it was all part of a new Nathan Fielder social experiment for season 5, but even that had me reeling at how preposterous it all was, or how mysterious life is, given the fact that I witnessed 50+ minutes of Sage just surfing or crashing in gorgeous and violent HUGE WAVES. Sage is an excellent Surfer as documented by all those years of dad's camera work. Forget about Big Brother, this is all Big Father. Are we ALL being Truman Show'd- How does Sage feel about this? Watching this film made me feel like that time I had a small psychotic break and had to be 5150'd- I could not believe what I was experiencing but knew that it was all really happening regardless of all the disturbing disassociations. Even if none of the delusions were true, I experienced them as if they were with all the shock and hysteria regardless of what was real or not. I am not entirely convinced that this film was NOT real, what ever that means...

Watching it twice was masochistic, but more pleasurable the second time around as I realized Douglas Burke is sadistic AND masochistic the same way Gurmeet Ram Rahim Sing, the guru is in MSG. I will go a 3rd time tomorrow and watch the Q & A and see if I can find any more evidence to substantiate my thesis that this film must be some conscious experiment for something very REAL in the near future, even if it is just leading upto Sage surfing in the 2020 Olympics at best, or ending up as a famous young actor/YouTuber in control of his own image at worst, either way, he will be surfing for relevancy the rest of his life after this singular coming of age story that leaves more questions than answers. Who will play Sage in the remake? Is Douglas to Lavar as Sage is to Lonzo? Is Douglas related to Richard Lewis?

I hope to find out more and will edit this rant into more of a review soon. Thank you for your time letting me air this one out. Interested in your feedback.


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Reply #6 on: February 22, 2018, 07:59:06 PM
"MSG: Messenger of God" is nuts. Now I'm even more intrigued by this.


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Reply #7 on: September 06, 2018, 08:32:44 PM
the Variety review

There is no excuse for “Surfer,” an abysmally amateurish vanity production best described as a total wipeout. Produced, written, and directed by Douglas Burke, a USC physics professor who would be well-advised not to quit his day job, it has something to do with the fulminations of a pontificating spirit who is given temporary corporeality, and something else to do with a traumatized young wave-rider who’s more or less browbeaten back into hanging ten. It is the sort of movie that sustains interest from scene to scene only because you’re constantly wondering whether it could possibly get any worse. In this regard, it seldom disappoints.

The well-nigh unendurable first half focuses on a lengthy and largely one-sided conversation between Sage (Sage Burke, the filmmaker’s son), a young man who nearly drowned during a near-fatal surfing mishap a few years earlier, and Jack, the surfer’s father, who does most of the talking even though he’s very seriously dead. At least, that’s his story, and he sticks with it.

I don’t have to tell you that the multi-tasking Douglas Burke cast himself as Jack, do I?

Sage doesn’t realize the guy is his late dad after he fishes him out of the ocean — no kidding, he snares him with his fishing line — and helps him over to a quiet corner of a spectacularly beautiful yet curiously deserted beach. So Jack introduces himself: “God put me together out of squid. And electricity. So I could talk to you for a few hours.” Then, he coughs up gobs of vile black gunk. “That’s ink,” he explains. No, really.

Jack proceeds to rant and rave in the manner of a brain-addled street-corner preacher, alternating between revisionist takes on biblical luminaries (Adam, Noah, the whale that swallowed Jonah, etc.) and mystical mumbo-jumbo about the spirit-healing benefits of surfing. (“The purpose of fear is for you to find your faith!”) Periodically, he indicates that being the product of squid and electricity is not entirely comfortable: “I’m living in an iron maiden of pain, boy!” This gives the elder Burke sufficient impetus to bug his eyes, scream in agony, and make other lame attempts at Serious Acting.

Throughout most of this sound and fury, Sage wears an expression that conveys equal measures of sullenness and fear, and offers only fleeting, monosyllabic replies. He looks and sounds for all the world like an intimidated adolescent who’s meekly serving as an audience of one for a crazy drunken parent who might turn violent at any second. It’s more than a little troubling to consider the possibility that the younger Burke isn’t merely acting.

Eventually, Sage gets away from the beach and, at Jack’s direction, heads toward a top-secret military hospital. (The production values of this misbegotten movie are such that the “hospital” appears to be a cheaply retrofitted storefront office.) And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where we learn Jack’s secret — and discover that Burke won’t give up on that Serious Acting shtick even while confined to a wheelchair.

A few supporting players figure into the mix, but it would be needlessly cruel to identify them by name. You could liken their performances to the efforts of actors at a community theater, but that would be even crueler to community theater actors. Suffice it to say that “Surfer” is bearable only during a climactic montage of Sage’s wave riding at various spots around the world. He surfs and he surfs, and then he surfs some more. And then the movie simply stops. It’s not exactly a happy ending, but it is an ending. One shouldn’t disparage small blessings.