Self-Discovery For Social Survival

An avant-garde surfing doc with the most stunning ocean cinematography ever put to film against a masterpiece jazzy sample-fueled soundtrack innovatively created post-experientially, SDFSS is a psychedelic love-letter to sports-euphoria. 8.8/10.

Plot Synopsis: A collaborative film between record label Mexican Summer and Pilgrim Surf + Supply. Surfers in the film include 7x World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, Creed McTaggart, Ryan Burch and more. SDSS was filmed in Mexico, the Maldives and Iceland in three separate vignettes. The musicians and pro-surfers embark on a journey that combines a symbiotic relationship between music and the waves, the environment, and local culture.

*Possible spoilers ahead*

Review

A Sports Doc Like No Other

The Maldives, Iceland, Mexico. Christopher M. Gentile’s latest tour-de-force Self-Discovery For Social Survival is a rhapsodic tour of the primal water-thrills that mystify & beguile us. Where life originated, it was about time the seas got a 21st-century homage, and that filmic product is finally here. An avant-garde surfing doc with perhaps the most stunning ocean cinematography EVER put to film, set against a masterpiece jazzy sample-fueled soundtrack innovatively created post-experientially, SDFSS is a psychedelic love-letter to the euphoria of sports.

A Masterpiece Avant-Garde Soundtrack That Innovates The Sports Doc & Stands As One Of The Best Of The 21st Century

The Avant-Garde Soundtrack. I cannot even find the words to describe how stunningly sublime SDFSS’s masterpiece soundtrack is. It is amongst the greatest film soundtracks I’ve ever heard – innovatively abandoning orchestral conventions for something wholly modern through the wonders of electronic production. As a music producer myself firmly in tune with everything from FL Studio to key corrections to BPM switches to ascending scales to drum kits and everything in between, I not only endorse the soundscape created here; I cannot stop gushing over it. Everything from hip-hop drum samples to jazzy synths to afropop to grunge guitar riffs to funky vocalizer arpeggios to ultra-reverb’d effectscapes, this is one of the few soundtracks I’ve ever bought IN FULL after watching a film – and is amongst the greatest soundtracks at least in any film of recent consequence I’ve heard (while also fitting cool vignettes of the behind-the-scenes of how the music was made as well).

Perhaps The Most Stunning Ocean Cinematography Ever Filmed

The Most Stunning Ocean Cinematography Ever Filmed. SDFSS mirrors this unbelievable soundscape with an equally (if not more) impressive visual landscape boasting some of the wildest, most stunning oceanic cinematography *ever* put to film. Locationally jaw-dropping splitting thirds up between 3 oceans and 16 surfers in Mexico’s Pacific Ocean, The Maldives’ Indian Ocean, and Iceland’s Atlantic/Arctic in three separate vignettes, it will stop you in your tracks visually. I had to actually pause the film multiple times and double-take/rewind to watch some of the insane, mind-melting shots again for full effect. Gentile and his team deserve massive acclaim not only for how inventively and game-changingly they shot many of the surf shots, but also the range and depth of compositionally-constructed shots in everything from vivid orange-hued sunsets to clear cloudless sunny tropical days in paradise to cold wet arctic nights with friends against a starless black sky and pink/purple-y morning sunrises. All of this is added with even some special effects-flair by way of some psychedelic credits & post-work making for a hypnotic, acid-like feeling that sends you into a state of pure euphoria & transportive bliss every frame.

The Collaborative Innovation

The Collaborative Innovation. The idea of bringing together professional surfers from the Pilgrim Surf + Supply brand and musicians from the Mexican Summer record label to work on a filmic love-letter to surfing is genius. Even more so, the idea to have the surfers work together to go back to the footage and describe/capture what they felt when experiencing it in that moment for a post-experiential soundtrack creation translating into music the feeling they felt makes for a special sensory experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. An avant-garde experiential master-innnovation that could push the boundaries of what’s possible in sports docs as a genre.

Flaws: Not Enough Narrative

Flaws include not much of a story or meat on the bones narratively outside of music and visuals. Don’t get me wrong – the music and visuals are stunning and instantly catapult SDFSS to the upper echelon of this year’s film offerings, but it might’ve been better served to at least tie the three chapters/vignettes a little more together – with a more pronounced overarching theme or narrative rather than three (albeit beautiful) self-contained visions. The fact they got legendary avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas to narrate as one of his last-recorded living testaments is phenomenal, but they should have given him much more to say than a few short parables or quotes scattered between large chunks of footage.

Conclusion

A Psychedelic, Sensory-Overloading Love-Letter To The Euphoria Of Sports

Christopher M. Gentile’s sensory-overloading Self-Discovery For Social Survival is beyond words. Exemplifying the boisterous spirit of surfing waves in the most stunning of world locations, it’s one of our favorite indie flicks of 2019 – and best sports doc since Free Solo. An avant-garde surfing doc with perhaps the most stunning oceanic cinematography EVER put to film, set against a masterpiece jazzy sample-fueled soundtrack innovatively created post-experientially, SDFSS is a psychedelic love-letter to the euphoria of sports.

Official CLC Score: 8.8/10