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.