Step Into Liquid
If there ever was a group that did not quite cry out to be liberated from a stereotype, it's surfers. This is not only because surfers do, in fact, tend to be the same--if not in ethnicity then in general worldview--but also because that worldview is by and large way more concerned with the Zen of fluid dynamics than with, say, social constructs. All of this is what siphons oxygen away from Dana Brown's surf documentary, Step Into Liquid, which takes as its thesis that "real surfers don't say 'dude'." Over a series of overweening profiles, Brown--son of legendary surf-doc maker Bruce Brown (The Endless Summer)--struggles to portray surfers from different walks of life, in an effort to prove that there is no single surfer archetype. His argument unravels one vignette at a time. What's uncanny is that all of the surfers Brown profiles are abundantly the same, and it's because they all surf for the same reason: to commune with a force of nature. One surfer describes his kind as "a tribe of people who feed off that energy." If only Brown had chosen to make a film about that--about surfing as the animistic religion that it is--then he would've made a real contribution to surf cinema. Instead, he just makes an argument that's as half-baked as it is well intentioned.