THE Brisbane International Film Festival is celebrating Australia's surf film history as part of its 20th anniversary program.
The annual festival starts today and the Let's Go Surfing line-up launches tomorrow with the 1973 classic Crystal Voyager and 1967 documentary The Fantastic Plastic Machine.
The wave of surf films includes everything from the first known movie footage of the surf - 1895's Rough Sea at Dover - to seminal surf films like Crystal Voyager and Morning of the Earth and 2010's First Love.
BIFF program director Kate Howat searched through hundreds of hours of footage from the National Film and Sound Archive during her research.
"Filming surfers riding waves spawned a whole new genre in cinema," she says.
"I'm the first to admit it wasn't until I started researching this that I realised how many great surf movies there are. It really is a unique, fascinating and unfortunately neglected part of Australian cinema history."
A silent black and white film seems like an odd choice for a film festival's salute to sun, sand and surf, but Rough Sea At Dover is a particularly fascinating piece of film.
Not only was it one of the first films to be projected in an Australian theatre, it showed an early fascination with waves as a film subject.
"Nobody had seen moving pictures let alone moving images like the surf and waves that were moving rapidly toward them," Howat says.
"They screamed and were looking for exits in case the waves crashed on them."
The ocean, waves and surfing are now an integral part of Australian culture. Even if you don't surf, Howat reckons you probably know a bit about the ocean and the sport.
"We do have that relationship, that affinity with the surf," she says.
"There's that seduction of the surf that just keeps drawing us there."
In a modern cinema landscape of seamless CGI integration and motion capture animation, watching completely natural footage has its own sort of novelty.
Take Crystal Voyager for example.
Innovative for its time, the box office record-breaking surf documentary featured groundbreaking filming techniques by board designer and filmmaker George Greenough.
"It's nice to take pause and see the effort these filmmakers and surfers made," Howat says.
"The fact they actually built this equipment to take you right inside the wave to capture these moments is pretty special. To see it on the big screen is pretty wild."
Also screening as part of Let's Go Surfing are Searching for Michael Peterson, Puberty Blues, Going Vertical: The Shortboard Revolution, Biggest Wednesday: Condition Black, Palm Beach and a series of short surf films.
For more information and tickets go to www.biff.com.au.
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