09.21.11 Documentary film 'White Wash' narrated by Ben Harper opens in New York 9/22

by kevin

Documentary film 'White Wash' narrated by Ben Harper opens in New York 9/22


New film explores history of black surfing

Opening tomorrow in New York, the documentary film White Wash explores the history of black surfing in America, painting a contrast to the global sport that is dominated by white males.

The film canvasses the timeline of surfing as witnessed by Captain Cook in Hawaii to Olympic swimmer and Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku's advocacy in the 1920s to its current competitive landscape with few black participants. "White Wash" positions surfing as a sport and lifestyle that reflects modern racial complexity.

Drawing on expertise from scholars, writers, pro surfers and community leaders, the film connects the African slave trade, race riots in the 1960s, segregation at America's beaches and the stereotype that blacks are not strong swimmers, let alone surfers.

"White Wash tackles the absurd notion that African Americans have some genetic aversion to water sports and reveals something far more interesting about the effects of social engineering in America," said surfer and X Games TV personality Sal Masekela.

Masekela, 10-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, Hawaiian surf icon Buttons Kaluhiokalani and Jamaican surf team member Billy "Mystic" Wilmot are featured in the film. The Roots provided the score, and the film is narrated by Grammy Award winner Ben Harper.

"The film offers a different take on race relations you don't really learn in school," Slater said. "It's a topic that's interesting and an angle on surfing that hasn't been looked at."

Filmmaker Ted Woods says the film's scope goes beyond the water.

"My hope is people wouldn't think it's just a surf film," Woods said. "It's certainly important for the surf community, but I think it's more important for America at large. I think it's time to have a different dialogue on race because it's a two-way conversation."

Contributing: By James Sullivan, BNQT.com


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Posted: Thu., Sep. 22, 2011, 3:52pm PT
New U.S. Release
White Wash
By Ronnie Scheib

A Trespass release and production. Produced by Airrion Copeland, Dan Munger, Ted Woods. Executive producer, David Woods. Co-producers, Harmony Lucas, Meg Bernardo. Directed, written by Ted Woods.
With: Billy "Mystic Wilmot, Sam George, Sal Masekela, Michael Green, Rick Blocker, Charles Ross, James Meredith, Bruce Wigo, "Patrick Quashi" Mitchell. Narrators: Ben Harper, Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter.
Covering familiar ground from an unfamiliar angle, Ted Woods' oddball docu "White Wash" examines the history of African-American disenfranchisement from a black surfer's viewpoint, in the process countering the racist myth that black people don't swim or surf. Woods shows, instead, that blacks were systematically excluded from all aspects of American aquatic culture, juxtaposing archival color footage of all-white beaches with black-and-white newsreels of tense, segregation-defying "wade-ins" broken up by police. Pic, which rolls in Sept. 23 at Gotham's Quad Cinema, will doubtless wash up on tube shores.
Woods traces the black roots of surfing, its suppression by white missionaries and its appropriation by white culture; a clip from the granddaddy of surfer movies, "Endless Summer," shows blond, blue-eyed California surfers introducing the practice to amazed Ghanaians, though in fact they had been riding the waves for centuries. Docu then segues into an all-out celebration of surfing, complete with music and imagery. Black surfers, silhouetted against the sunset, wax poetic over the freedom of the open ocean while decrying their brothers' prejudice against participation in a supposedly whites-only sport.

Camera (color/B&W), Woods; editors, Brian Davison, Dan Munger; music, the Roots; art director, Mike Salisbury. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Sept. 19, 2011. Running time: 78 MIN.