Something hidden -- go and find it;
Go and look beyond the Ranges
Something lost behind the ranges:
Lost and waiting for you. Go!

-- from Guy Maddin's CAREFUL

Being a periodic meditation on some of the more obscure outlying regions of cinema;
regarding movies that are inadequately publicized and hence, easily overlooked --
and by cinema, it is meant in the larger sense of films/tv/DVD/internet --
that might be worthy of your interest, but perhaps has escaped your notice.


Friday, August 31, 2007


       Documentaries that rely on “found” footage are amongst the most difficult type of films to pull off successfully. Not that it’s easy to make any kind of movie, that’s for certain -- but at least when you’re making a narrative feature, for example, you have your script, and a shot list to guide you. Even on most documentaries, one at least has a subject to film, and a plan -- you’re following this or that person around, or investigating this sort of phenomena or that particular incident -- then, you just go out and shoot it, and with a little luck and a lot of perseverance, you have your film.
       Not so when the subject matter of your film is an event that happened nearly 40 years ago; an event which, of necessity, went largely un-filmed and un-photographed; an occurrence whose specifics -- exact locations and time periods -- can only be guessed at or surmised. Such a subject matter forces the filmmaker to become as much geologist as anything else; sifting through a fossil record of photos and snippets of film in order to arrive at a reasonable estimation of the nature of the incident, rather than an inarguable photographic record. Given that all these hurdles stood in its’ way, it is amazing that Deep Water is as outstanding a film as it is.

       The film concerns a challenge put forth by the London Times in early 1968: to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat, without putting into port or receiving aid of any kind; at that time, a never-before achieved accomplishment. A number of experienced sailors rose to the challenge -- and one relative amateur -- Donald Crowhurst; a 36-year-old family man and designer of electronic navigational aids. While lacking the experience of the other sailors in the race, Crowhurst feels that his navigational equipment -- and a relatively new and untested trimaran sailboat design -- will give him the edge he needs to make the round-the-globe journey in record time. Increasingly uncertain of his own ability to withstand the isolation and strain the nearly year-long journey will put upon him, Crowhurst is nonetheless pressured into both setting sail and shouldering large debts related to his entry into the race -- all this, despite inadequate preparations for the trip on an unproven vessel...

       There is relatively little footage documenting the actual race: the occasional on-the-fly interview with the race’s participants; some preparation of the boats and their launch as shot by the BBC; some footage and audio tape excerpts recorded by Crowhurst and a couple of the other sailors during their respective voyages -- other than that, there are no actual recordings of the event. Instead of falling to the ground at this point though, this is where the movie really shines -- through a skillful blend of current-day interviews with the race’s participants and their loved ones, some new B-roll shot in and around the course of the race, and some well-done computer graphics, the story is as compellingly told as if every sailor had a full camera crew aboard for the duration of their trips. A necessary human element is brought to the fore of the film by having some off-camera readings of the sailors’ logs during key scenes. In a way, the story is better served by the very restrictions that would seemingly hinder its telling; by having so little footage of the actual sailors themselves, the camera is forced to linger on the relentless and seemingly endless sea itself. There couldn’t be any more effective way to drive home the exhausting demands and absolute isolation of the voyage than this -- all of the participants in the race were changed by it; and not always for the better...

       Deep Water is already open in theaters in L.A. and N.Y.C.; it will gradually move to venues in other markets in the upcoming weeks, and probably make it to DVD by the end of the year. Since it’s being distributed by IFC Films here in the U.S., it’ll most likely show up on that network soon. Worth watching in any format, that much I can say for certain.

Some links:

The Deep Water official website.

IFC Films (the U.S. distributer of the film) website.

Next post -- 09/07/07


Kalibhakta said...


this is an exceptionally well-written post...

grigorss said...

Thanks -- what can I tell you? I try...