“For me to get excited about any film, it has to feel like a psychedelic experience. Not psychedelic as in you feel like you’re on drugs; psychedelic like it takes you out of your present state of mind and transports you to another. Surfing to me is psychedelic and good clips should be treated with care. Music, editing, shots, and aesthetics — everything needs to be carefully considered to create an experience for the viewer.” —Joe G. , Director of Year Zero
Green A-frames send foam skyward and spit sideways as they detonate on the beach at Capbreton in the south of France. On the shore, a team of young French women in white swimwear parades up and down a graffitied WWII bunker. In the water, Nate Tyler and Dion Agius split and launch off the six-foot peaks in radioactive green wetsuits. Dion laughs, “I look like a fucken’ council worker” (referring to the fluorescent uniforms of city cleaners in Australia). This is one of the stylized settings engineered by surf filmmaker Joe G. for Globe’s new psychedlic surf film 0000 (or Year Zero, as it will be read on the DVD case).
This is an important film for the sport. At its basis, Year Zero celebrates the aesthetic orgasm that is surfing — a feature of the sport too often neglected by young surf filmmakers.
“You can watch ‘a rad surf part’ everywhere these days and to me almost everything looks the same. We’re basically just bored with a lot of the things we usually see in surf and like to try different takes on it,” says Joe.
Using fewer clips, some of which have been slowed down and jacked with vibrant colors to create a more stimulating visual experience (all captured on “old film cameras that look all gritty and weird and fun”), Joe gives the viewer time to digest the relationship between freakish surfer and moving lump of liquid.
The timing of the film is impeccable. Debate has raged over whether the current generation of surfers have compromised style for the sake of their new school moves. Sunny Garcia recently observed that back in the day it was very easy to tell the Bruces, Andys and Kellys from the Occys, Parkos and Fannings as you walked down the beach. But much less so with the top tech-gen surfers.
It is true that the new school repertoire can look repetitive, but that’s because it happens fast and the technical nuances are harder to detect. Year Zero gives us an intimate view of the mechanics of new school surfing, and the result is a form of the sport that is anything but homogenized.
It’s no coincidence to hear Joe cite the king of surfing psychedelia, George Greenough, as a major influence. Joe is a clear leader in mainstream avant garde surf film-making. In 2010, his stylized foreground combined with a backdrop of Globe’s aerially supreme team won Transworld Surf’s Imaginarium contest. His 2007 production, New Emissions of Light and Sound — scored by world renowned DJ Sasha — was a cult hit.
Like Modern Collective, Year Zero uses a conceptual premise for the film and takes directorial risks. But it is a far further departure from the surf film formula than Kai Neville’s lauded 2010 production. It uses a post-apocalyptic world as its backdrop, allowing Joe to explore the use of synthetic colors and surreal settings. For the film, surfers were given a color scheme; in the case of Dion and Nate, they chose nuclear green. Given the situation unfolding in Japan, there may be more to this film than a catchy title. —Jed Smith
Next in Renaissance Coming: Want a definitive view of the future of surfing? Look to the children.