Just saw the movie Bra Boys today. I really wasn't amp'ed about checking out a gang flick, never am. It turns out to provide an intriguing look inside a segment of urban surfing culture halfway around the world at Maroubra near Sydney, Australia. It is a feature length film being released across the USA and likely other parts of the World.
Motivations, origins, progressions, conflict and some good surfing footage are rolled into this one. Crime on the street vs. charging waves are presenting as options for boys growing up here. It is stated to be a poverty stricken area with crime, drugs and common poor home life. One of the leads described being chased out of his house by his mom's batt wielding boyfriend while she was strung out on heroin. The gang or Bra Boys were stated to be there for each other even when families were not. There have been several incarnations of similar gangs over the decades in Maroubra for surfers, with the Boys being the most recent. Adversity and the beach go way back here as the film tells it. It goes back well over a hundred years first dealing with bans of aboriginals and later squatters from the surf. Get this, they even BANNED surfers without a licensing fee and board stamps back in the day. Before that the authorities apparently required male bathers to wear dresses? Well, they had still images but it does make you wonder. It seems that surfers may be cast as outsiders in Australian culture as opposed to the core watermen they may be considered to be beyond the country. Btw, don't look for many women or girls in this film strangely enough. Ma has a central roll but that aside it seems like a guys only sort of place?
The film is directed from the inside by Sunny Abberton, one of the Bra Boys. His family is central to both the Boys and movie plot. Kelly Slater had a spot talking about a competition at Maroubra beach paired against Koby Abberton, a huge local favorite. Laird Hamilton had a couple of spots talking about tow in surfing in Tahiti with some of the Boys. Russell Crowe narrates this documentary adding to the experience.
So, if you are wind waiting as I was or are just curious and not opposed to a frank look at a different ocean culture, why not check it out? Fair amount of graphic violence, riots, some blood and language so not a good one for kids or folks not prepared to deal with a hard extended look at the darker, harsh side of life. I could care less for anything that glorifies or attempts to justify gangs but in this instance the film does provide insight into reasons how and why it exists. They do have guys lighting themselves on fire and cliff diving while wave waiting as an aside. As documentaries go it has been well received in Oz, grossing more than any other non-Imax flick to date.
Review by Margaret Pomeranz
BRA BOYS is a documentary about the notorious Maroubra beach surfing clan made by one of the Bra Boys himself, Sunny Abberton.
Russell Crowe, the filmâ€™s erstwhile executive producer, narrates a brief history of the area, highlighting its working class origins, before weâ€™re confronted by the Abberton family, four boys, only three of which are in this film Sunny, Koby and Jai who have a heroin-addicted mother with three different fathers. Their stepfather was a bankrobber. They took refuge with their grandmother and found solace in the surf.
The latter part of the film is taken up with the trials of Jai, whoâ€™s on a murder charge and Koby, charged with being an accessory. You wonder about Sunnyâ€™s motivation in baring his familyâ€™s history and troubles to the world in this film, but it does make for fascinating viewing.
It gives insight into surf culture in a way Iâ€™ve never seen before and it takes you on some pretty big waves, these Bra Boys have bravado, thatâ€™s for sure.
But it works also as a study of a dysfunctional family and the forces that drive these young men into the life they have.