Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
With the Sundance Film Festival sounding as the starting bell, the season for new independent films and documentaries is upon us.
My wife Susan has been involved with the Surfrider Foundation ever since I met her in 1997. She grew up near the beach in San Diego where she saw first-hand how mankind's effluvia and manifest destiny have slowly impinged on our shorelines. Care for our beaches and oceans is just one of the many things that Surfrider focuses on.
Last summer, Susan hosted the International Surfing Day web-a-thon. When she came back from the event, she told me of a group of surfers who had gone to Papua, New Guinea to make a documentary about an un-surfed wave somewhere in the far-reaches of the backside of that huge island. They came back with a different story.
Susan and I went to the Santa Barbara Film Festival last week to see the debut of this documentary Isolated, and I came away with a whole lot more than I had bargained for.
This international cast of pro-surfers (Travis Potter, Jenny Useldinger, Andrew Mooney, Jimmy Rotherham, and Josh Fuller), simply set out on a pretty innocent mission of finding a surf break that they could only assume existed in an exceedingly remote part of the already remote island. Movie cameras, for the most part, hadn't captured any images of this locale since World War II. The Indonesian military has a pretty tight grip on what they want tourists to see down there, so these surfers and the documentary crew decided to forego a guided trip from the military-this was the only way that they hoped of really finding this beach that they assumed was there. It was in a sort of military-enforced tourism no-man's land.
Indonesia has governed the land that was once home to the indigenous Papauan people since the second half of the 1960,. Since the fairly recent discovery of gold and copper in Papau, a new level of commerce has been extracted from these remote and previously untouched mountains. The bad guys are the Indonesian military and a U.S. mining concern that feeds money to this arm of the Indonesian military to protect these literal gold mines.
A systematic genocide and rape of the Papuan people has seemingly been in effect now for decades. The rest of the world has been mostly hidden from the horrors down there. The Indonesian military has done their best to rid the land of the indigenous people that, it seems, they may think have some claim to the riches in these parts.
Journalism and freedom of speech in West Papau, New Guinea have been met with the penalty of death. This story is meant to stay hidden.
These unsuspecting surfers run headlong into all of this (illegal camera's in hand!), and are as stunned and taken aback as the viewer of Isolated is. Initially informed of all of this by a village chief of a tribe living on the beach, the "surf" documentary turns geo-political activism in the blink of an eye.
Producer Geoff Clark and actor Ryan Phillipe have taken up the cause of this little-known but horrible scenario in Papua, New Guinea. They are now in the process of getting enough signatures to take this to the White House, so that at least the genocide and atrocities get recognized by the U.S.
Take a peek here http://isolated.tv/takeaction.html
Take a look at the movie. It'll get you enraged for sure.