Friday, April 11, 2008
Although Crowe's narration sounds excessively low-key and uninvolved, the actor so took to the Bra Boys that Variety has reported him partnering with Brian Grazer and Ron Howard to make his directorial debut with a feature about them. The Universal film will focus on the underground surfer culture created by the three Sydney brothers highlighted in the current non-fiction film.
The focus of the documentary Bra Boys is the Abberton Brothers, a trio of siblings from the rough and tumble Maroubra beach area. The film chronicles their youth growing up in a broken home and seeking refuge in the waves with their friends, or at their grandmother's house. The Bra Boys surf tribe became a surrogate family for the Abberton brothers and many other kids. Without stable families of their own, these boys provided support for each other; their motto being "my brother's keeper." (Sunny Abberton is shot in his interviews bare chested so we can see his tattoo & bearing that slogan and being a constant reminder of what drives him.) From this motley crew of kids, a number found redemption and escape in big wave surfing. But they were also notorious for being wild (like setting themselves on fire and jumping off the ocean cliffs into the water), and for getting into scraps with local police and rival gangs. But things take a serious turn when brother Jai get charged with murder and brother Koby is later accused of being an accomplice after the fact. The film focuses considerable attention and dramatic build up to the trials and their verdicts.
Reaction to the film probably depends on your regional or emotional proximity to the Abberton boys. An Aussie site called it "genuine and heartfelt" while a U.S. site described it as "a laughably one-sided portrait of his relatives and friends with Bra Boys . A carefully manicured PR video for the infamous Bra Boys surfer community..."
Sunny Abberton served as producer, co-director and writer and he definitely seems to be following the Bra Boys creed of being his brother's keeper. In this case, it means creating a film that allows his two brothers to tell their side of the story exactly as they would like. So from Sunny's perspective, the boys are just misunderstood and undeserving of their bad rep. Since I'm not familiar with the two legal cases or the Bra Boys, the film might be presenting an accurate assessment. But since Sunny never allows for anyone providing an alternative point of view, and never asks any hard questions of his siblings, the audience never has a chance to weigh the information and decide for itself. So if you go to Bra Boys expecting an investigative piece of journalism you will be sorely disappointed.
Bra Boys (Berkela Films)
On the other hand, if you go wanting to get a glimpse of a particular brand of Aussie surf sub-culture, than this is probably your movie. The film does convey a sense of the social climate and economic disadvantage in Maroubra, and the territorial gang spirit that runs through the area. The film also captures Bra Boys' passion for surfing and excitement, In fact, the film could have actually gone further in that direction, spending more time with the boys at the beach. The film doesn't need to show more of the competitive big wave surfing but more of how surfing became a way of life for some of these people. In contrast to Dogtown and Z Boys , which was essentially a sports (skating and surfing) doc with occasional social insights and commentary, Bra Boys puts its sport well in the background in order to make the Abberton boys the central focus. And the Abbertons are decidedly colorful characters.
Bra Boys (rated R for language, violent content, and reckless behavior) provides an insider's view of a very close-knit surf tribe. It aspires to but falls short of Dogtown 's inspired, edgy mix of sports history, pop culture, social commentary, and revealing interviews. Bra Boys feels more like a high-end home movie best enjoyed by family and friends.
Companion viewing: Dogtown and Z Boys, Riding Giants, Drive Thru Surf Movie Series, Campaign Two &