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Renowned Surf Film Celebrates Cultural Connection to Nature

Director Adam Pesce’s documentary “Splinters,” which follows the journey of four surfers as they compete for the title of best surfer in Papua New Guinea’s first ever national surfing contest, will be screened tonight at 8 p.m. overlooking the Pacific at 6823 Del Playa Dr.

“Splinters” has garnered numerous awards — including Best Documentary from Surfer Magazine, the Hawaii International Film Festival and London Surf Film Festival — and appeared at the Tribeca Film Festival and Amsterdam’s Independent Documentary Film Festival. Pesce’s tale of the changes that surfing has wrought upon the local culture has made its way to Isla Vista, where the ocean’s proximity has long exerted a large influence on local lifestyles.

The screening will be followed with a performance by local band and Battle of the Bands winner Sprout.

Will Howard, a third-year philosophy major, said the award-winning film shows how the competition’s high stakes — which included a Billabong sponsorship and the privilege to compete internationally — transformed participants’ lives.

“For these people, getting out and seeing the world is a huge eye-opening experience, so for surfing to be able to facilitate that dream is truly amazing and incredible,” Howard said. “Watching these amazing individuals put their entire hearts and souls into something they believe in to the fullest extent is amazing and inspiring. Surfing is a way for the people to achieve their dreams and even get off the island.”

According to Howard, the film will also provide a fresh perspective on a subject many locals feel they already know intimately.

“Getting a close glimpse into such a different culture is something remarkable as well, especially because it is focused so heavily on something many of us do as something extracurricular or as a pastime,” Howard said. “It’s just a great story and very different from a normal surfing movie.”

The film’s title is inspired by Papua New Guineans’ use of “splinters,” or pieces of trees, as surfboards. Second-year film and media studies and environmental studies double major Andy Cowell said the competition that drives the plot portrays a society that celebrates the organic connection with nature that surfing supplies.

“Surfing connects you to the culture. It’s not of economic significance; it just makes you happy,” Cowell said. “But modern surfing is more of an industry than a cultural thing. I think it would be good to see surfing contests with less of an industry-like feel.”

Jake Hesse, a second-year environmental studies major, said “Splinters” reveals the sport’s ability to transcend societal boundaries.

“The idea that cultures evolve linearly — progressing from ‘primitive’ to ‘modern’ or ‘Western’ — is not necessarily the way it works,” Hesse said. “Just because Papua New Guinea is still mainly tribal doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy surfing as much as ‘Western’ cultures do. Surfing is for everyone.”

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