South to Sian (2016) - Moto Movie Review
Having seen this at the premiere in Long Beach, California, last week, I can safely say it's the best bike-related film I've seen in a long time. Saying it is like On Any Sunday meets Endless Summer is not only accurate, but a complement to all three films. I urge you to watch this film when it hits the internet on July 15th, and I will update this post with a link at the bottom when it goes live.
The premise is simple, and the beautiful locations are fantastically captured, so it would be hard to fail, but many others have taken those ingredients and turned out boring or pretentious crap. Director Dustin Humphrey, D.P. Andre "Cricket" Fauzi, and still photographer Woody Gooch provide imagery that will have you checking air fares to Bali. Editor Lincoln Caplice keeps things lively and interesting. And pro longboard surfer/rider Harrison Roach not only makes all the hard stuff look easy, but wrote and spoke all the narration you hear throughout. Fellow Australian longboard surfer Zye Norris is his companion on this adventure, and also has a smooth effortless style that makes you want to learn to surf.
These two surfers are both sponsored by Deus Ex Machina, which, besides being a hip coffee shop in Venice Beach, is also a custom bike and surfboard company originally from Australia. The director, Dustin Humphrey, is one of the co-founders of the the Deus location in Bali. The custom Yamaha Byson dual sport bikes in the films are products of that shop, many of the boards come from there, and chances are they created the specially modified Land Rover as well.
But this movie doesn't come off as a promotional film for Deus, any more than it seems like something made by the Indonesian ministry of tourism. I think what it is most of all, is an effective piece of propaganda for living in the moment and doing something epic now, not next week.
The movie follows Harrison and Zye as they explore around the multitude of volcanic islands that make up Indonesia. There is no grand plan, and no higher cause, they are just talking to locals and other surf safari veterans and collecting, as they say, "dots on the map".
While the Land Rover is well suited to much of the land they have to cross, their Deus-prepped dirt bikes have removable surf board racks for getting to beaches only accessible by single track. Sometimes even the bikes can't make it, but they are small enough to be loaded into the boats of local fishermen for an amphibious assault.
Some of the surf spots they find may have never been surfed or filmed by western surfers before. Some of these breaks take hours of off-road riding to get to, but reward them with waves similar to the famous Pipeline or Teahupoo, and can only be found through the surfer grapevine. There is no manufactured drama here, just a 1,300-mile journey over land and ocean to beaches so beautiful you can't believe there aren't huge hotels there already.
When they aren't riding to get somewhere, they take the racks off and rip it up as best as you can with 150cc of four-stroke power. From the look of it, much of the land on these islands is dark volcanic ash, which seems much like sand dune riding, though maybe with a bit more grip.
Besides getting secret surf spot tips from the locals, an Indonesian motocross racer named Agi Agassi hooks them up with some of his favorite places to ride as well. Another one of the folks who drops in to ride with them is Forrest Minchinton, a southern California local surfer, board shaper, and motocross racer. Together the four of them somehow raise free riding to an art as great to look at as the surfing footage.
Forrest was at the Long Beach premier, as was the director (all the way from Bali), and what seemed like dozens of rowdy Australians. I'm sure they didn't fly in just for the movie, so I guess we must have a large underground population of immigrants from Down Under here in So. Cal. They were all in two or three rows near the back, hooting and hollering, and pounding on their skateboards, until the movie started, then they were as polite as Canadians.
The premier was free, but, still: bikers and surfers managing to pack the Art Theater in Long Beach on a Thursday night is pretty impressive. The line to get in wrapped down the street and around the block. I think the count was more than 300 people in the audience.
I have no way of telling what sort of boards the surfers paddled up on, but the bikes ran the gamut. There were real vintage bikes, modern retros, Harley-Davidsons, adventure bikes, sport bikes, two-strokes and what have you. This film showing was a great event, and it would be pretty cool if someone were to program a weekly bike-centric film series at one of the smaller revival houses around town. I know I'd be there.
Rotten Tomato Rating: None, the movie has not yet officially come out (July 15th)
RideApart Worth Watching: You bet your sweet bippy! Haven't you read any of what I wrote here? Not sure I need to own this on DVD, but definitely will be watching it again when it is released for streaming online.
Redeeming Quality: The whole film is great. If you feel like you need a story, or demand winners and losers, you might not like this free rolling travelogue. But if you enjoyed Endless Summer, and wished it had motorcycles, this film is for you!
Worth Noting: If the visuals of the film are appealing, but you want to know more about where they are and what they are doing, you are in luck. Deus commissioned Harrison to write a weekly diary about the making of the film, and you can read it all on their site. Part one, of 10, starts here: Deus Customs South to Sian Part 1.
I'm over 40 and not that hip, so I did not recognize a lot of what is on the soundtrack, but it is all good and I can't wait to find out who it was. It ranges from mellow electronica, to old-school rock, to new folk, to ethereal ambient stuff that seems like the theme music to a dream. I would tell you more, but you are just going to have to listen yourself, as I can't find any listings for who is on it at the moment.
Reading through the "making of" blog, it is amazing how lean this whole production was. You get the impression there were the two surfers, and then maybe three other guys. The D.P., still photographer, and assistant D.P. would shoot all day, then edit, then search for a WiFi connection or cell phone signal to send footage back to the director. Sometimes one of them would have to ride for 30 minutes to find an internet cafe and send dailies via WhatsApp. The director would send back notes and they would do it all over again the next day.
There will be a special book and DVD edition coming out shortly from Deus Ex Machina, featuring plenty of killer photography by Woody Gooch. When a link goes live we will update this post. When the movie is available for online streaming (July 15th), we will also fill in the details for you here, so check back. Until then, here is the trailer:
I'm always looking for new movie, book and other motorcycle pop culture to consume, so drop us a line of you have some suggestions.