Directors: Joshua Izenberg, Wynn Padula
Watch Resurface online: Netflix UK
Every Sunday, we review a short film available online. We call it Short Film Sunday.
War is bad. Nobody needs to be told that. Decades upon decades of human loss have proven it time and time again. Resurface is a film that profiles the more overlooked casualties of war: the troops. 1 in 3 soldiers are diagnosed with PTSD, the film reminds us. Even then, you might already be nodding in recognition. But if Resurface appears to be covering familiar ground, it quickly leaves that land behind, literally.
The short film focuses on surfing and how it can help military veterans deal with that trauma. Our window into this unlikely subject is Bobby Lane, a former marine who, like many before him – and many after him – is struggling with life after coming home. He lives on a cocktail of drugs, most of them designed to counteract the others, resulting in practically a walk-in wardrobe of pills. How did he move from bottles to breaking waves? Surfing was on his bucket list of things to try, before he was going to commit suicide. Surfing, though, proved such a positive experience that he decided to continue living, even if it was just to go surfing again.
There’s a quietly staggering impact to these honest, intimate confessions – despite suicidal thoughts being tragically common among military veterans, it’s a subject that rarely makes it to our screens. But it’s one that California’s Van Curaza is all too aware of it, starting the organisation Operation Surf specifically to cater to military veterans whose mental well-being can be improved and supported through ocean therapy.
Directors Joshua Izenberg and Wynn Padula continue to secure access to the scheme’s participants, which come from all walks of life and suffer an array of conditions. That sincerity extends to their visuals, which sympathetically portry the calming atmosphere of the waves – slow-motion, aerial and close-up shots combine to make a beautiful snapshot of surfing that, combined with the personal testimonies, capture the appeal of the ocean afresh.
There’s a determination and committed focus required from each surfer, which reinforces the suitability of the sport for returning soldiers. What’s communicated most of all, though, is the shared sense of purpose that unites the group as they strive to learn and do better. The success of one veteran who can’t see or hear riding a wave is a powerful, heartwarming sight.
At only 27 minutes, the short documentary doesn’t manage much more beyond that emotional spectacle – there is little room, for example, to discuss the military or even whether Operation Surf doesn’t work for some people – but if this is almost a promotional video for the organisation, it’s a worthy one: we’re reminded during the short that 22 soldiers commit suicide every 24 hours. Such statistics are few and far between, though; Resurface’s strength lies in the fact that it doesn’t tell us about a problem we know: it shows us a real solution.
Resurface is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.