If you missed #NFF17 documentary TAKE EVERY WAVE: THE LIFE OF LAIRD HAMILTON, you're in luck - it opens in theaters this weekend!
In this breathtaking portrait, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy (Last Days in Vietnam, NFF 2014) takes on the legendary Laird Hamilton (Riding Giants, NFF 2004), a maverick who has redefined big wave surfing over the past four decades. This visually resplendent film follows the movie-star handsome Hamilton in Hawaii, as he eagerly awaits El Niño-powered waves of an unprecedented size, prompting reflection on his lifelong drive to conquer unrideable waves. Buoyed by the memories of family and friends, the charismatic surfer relates the struggles of his early life, the refuge he found in the ocean, and the fearlessness that has served as a constant source of innovation—and controversy—in his career.
Read more with Rory below, and check out local screening opportunities near you!
NFF: How did you first become acquainted with and interested in Laird's life and story?
Rory: I was introduced to Laird through a mutual friend who thought throwing two people together who wouldn't normally know each other might be interesting. Although I didn't know much about surfing before, I grew up on the water and have an appreciation for the water, and I grew up with surf and ski movies - and we were surrounded by sports figures - making a film about an athlete in the water was not totally an unfamiliar idea.
NFF: The film is tonally a bit different from others you've made in the past, and focuses on a single subject rather than, for example, a larger group. Was that conscious departure for you as a filmmaker?
Rory: I'm equally passionate about whatever sparks my interest. You commit over a year of your life to the making of a film, so it's hard to work on a subject you don't care about. It took a little while to wrap my head around this particular story and give myself permission to make a "fun" film - but I couldn't let the idea go. I wasn't interested in a typical surf film - I was interested in Laird and his story and his motivations; what he's accomplished on the water and how he's revolutionized the sport. I was curious to explore what makes a person the best they can be.
NFF: Shooting in and around water is notoriously challenging. Can you talk a little about that process making this film?
Rory: It of course presents a new set of challenges - how do you know when the wave is coming, for example. It took some time to understand how waves work and how best to shoot them. I watched a lot of surf films, and I do ski, so I know you can be on the steepest run and it looks flat in pictures, so there's something about the angle of shooting that shapes how it looks. In our case shooting by helicopter was the best way to keep up with Laird.
NFF: What surprised you the most while you were making the film?
Rory: I think I didn't fully appreciate Laird's childhood and what he went through when he was younger. I now have a deeper appreciation for his focus and passion - his personal journey is extraordinary.
NFF: What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing the film?
Rory: I just hope people actually go to the theaters! You need to appreciate the awe and enormousness of the waves on a big screen - we made the film for that experience, so please support the film in theaters, and enjoy the ride and thrill in watching it that doesn't translate to a tv or computer screen. Check out our website for screening times and locations!