Review: ‘Splinters’

Surfing meets sociology in "Splinters," a compelling docu about the sport's arrival in the Papua New Guinea village of Vanimo. Following four riders whose quest for glory is surrounded by factional rivalries and bitter personal conflicts, helmer Adam Pesce's noteworthy debut carefully balances uplifting footage of hopefuls chasing dreams with startlingly raw coverage of their dry-land dramas.

Surfing meets sociology in “Splinters,” a compelling docu about the sport’s arrival in the Papua New Guinea village of Vanimo. Following four riders whose quest for glory is surrounded by factional rivalries and bitter personal conflicts, helmer Adam Pesce’s noteworthy debut carefully balances uplifting footage of hopefuls chasing dreams with startlingly raw coverage of their dry-land dramas. Pic should have a bright future as a VOD, homevid and specialized broadcast item; limited release begins Feb. 3 in Gotham.

The popularity of surfing in the island nation has grown spectacularly since an Aussie pilot gave Vanimo its first board in the early 1980s. Filmed in the lead-up to Papua New Guinea’s first-ever national surfing titles, the docu examines the sport’s profound social impact through the preparations of local champion Angelus Lipahi, who’s facing disqualification for non-payment of alimony; brash contender Ezekiel Afara; and sisters Lesley and Susan Umpa, whose participation has inspired other girls and provoked heated discussion about gender roles in the male-dominated community. Expertly edited by Kim Roberts (“Food, Inc.”), the pic stands out from surf docus that are just about finding the perfect wave. Tech credits are fine.

Splinters

Production

A SnagFilms release of an In Effect Films production in association with Divisadero Pictures, Little House Prods. (International sales: SnagFilms, Washington, D.C.) Produced by Adam Pesce, Perrin Chiles. Executive producers, Paul Morgan, Daniel Davila, Catherine Davila, Danielle Robinson, Alan Siegel. Co-producers, TJ Barrack, Wes Brown. Directed by Adam Pesce.

Crew

Camera (color, mini-DV-to-HD), Pesce; editor, Kim Roberts; music, Jesse Voccia. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival (competing), Oct. 19, 2011. (Also in 2011 Warsaw, Tribeca film festivals; 2011 Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.) Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Angelus Lipahi, Ezekiel Afara, Lesley Umpa, Susan Umpa, Steve Tekwie, Andy Abel. (Melanesian Pidgin, English dialogue)

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