Dear Suburbia (2012)

An avant-garde juxtaposition of vast expanses vs. suburbia; extemporization vs. cyclicism; freedom vs. desk-job 9-5’s, Kai Neville’s sophomore pirouette into the rhapsody of wanderlust is a hypnotic love-letter to our existential crisis. 8.7/10.

Plot Synopsis: A high-performance, location-based surf film set against exotic locales, objects, and personalities juxtaposed with the traditions and safety of suburban life, Kai Neville’s third film aims to capture the absurdity of his lifestyle and the subjects he documents amongst the breaking waves of paradise.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*


A Love-Letter To Existential Crisis & Eccentric Youth-Bursting Indie Filmmaker On A Mission

Sun. Surf. Sand. Soporific repetitions of the same tired wavebreaking shots & gratis alt-rock cycled-through somnambulistically or half-assedly. That is the plague of many documentaries and short films on the subject of professional surfing of ages-past – one that boisterous, eccentric, young director/cinematographer/editor Kai Neville has made it his life’s goal to cure. Kai’s mission to translate the passion, vivacity/vibrance, and breathtaking euphoria of his beloved sport to the screen is packed with pure cinematic idiosyncrasy and skillful intangibles, an up-and-coming indie filmmaking presence/talent making as much noise as his cuss-laden interview style with his previous works Modern Collective and Lost Atlas. He wanted to do something bold and different from the two with his newest release: Dear Suburbia – and it is that and more, certainly one of the most unique and inventive subject films ever made. An avant-garde juxtaposition of vast expanses vs. suburbia; extemporization vs. cyclicism; freedom vs. desk-job 9-5’s, Kai Neville’s sophomore pirouette into the rhapsody of wanderlust is a love letter to mankind’s existential crisis.

The Cinematography, Editing, and Location Shooting

Filmed on location in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and the Caribbean, Dear Suburbia boasts breathtaking exotic backdrops to all its seaside action. The diversity of landscapes from the warm turquoise foam atop Barbados waves to the icy breaks of the Sea of Okhotsk in Japan makes for one of the most visually-rich, transportive collection of waters you could hope for in a film on the subject – surfed by magnificent professional surfers amongst the world’s best and brought to life by top-notch cinematography and editing. A hallmark of Kai’s signature style is perhaps some the crispest editing I’ve ever witnessed – snapping with the flick of a switch in nanoseconds between intricately-juxtaposed or different shots purely cinematic-feeling captured in Red ultra hi-def and 7d Canon digital SLR cameras and traversing impressive technique from slow-mo’s to reverse shots to overheads to static grain.

The Juxtaposition & Existential Analysis

These luxurious, transportive A-list beach locales that will have anyone in the concrete jungle salivating and contacting their travel agent are juxtaposed with constant shots of a menacing suburbia. There is a dark vibe ostensibly-dominant in the shots of the neighborhoods and houses they splice throughout the jaw-dropping surf ones – captured in the most eerie and creepiest neighborhoods overwhelming with claustrophobia and griminess/uninviting aura to symbolize the existential crisis of man. Nature vs. suburbia; Extemporization vs. cyclicism in routine; freedom vs. desk-job 9-5’s – these are questions foundational to the core of mankind balancing a duality between practicality and dreams. Who wouldn’t take in-a-heartbeat the type of lifestyle on-the-road that Kai and his surfbro-subjects live – creating memories and traveling the world in the most beautiful of places while many people are stuck in the same monotony and convention like a fly in a spider’s web. Is their lifestyle practical? Do you value experientialism/memories over making money and raising a family? Is the nature-driven way of life of our ancestors or skyscraper/tech-clad one of modern humans the ‘correct’ version of us? The film’s juxtaposing of these two wildly-different lifestyles achieves through dramatic contrast a bird’s eye view of the issue and clever commentary on it – Kai and his group clearly asserting that suburbia is the ‘enemy’ of a truly-memorable, free, beautiful life and something to think about for certain.

The Soundtrack & Symbolism

The soundscape of Dear Suburbia is absolutely sublime – one of the most unique soundtracks I’ve ever heard. From its MGMT-like euphoric powerchord synthesizer opening emerging from static distortion and capitalizing on the vivacity of surroundings, it then traverses nearly-every genre of music one could think of as a dramatic antithesis of the potpourri of random sounds and gratis music spiced into previous subject analyses. From Elvis-reminiscent deep-throated soul music/R&B to wurlitzer choir progressions to xylophonics to electronica ecstasy pads to soft alt-rock straight out of the 70’s to booming kickdrums interrupting pure silence to grunge to Sex Pistols-like punk to purposefully-distorted 808 sequences hypnotizing your senses, the film boasts a soundtrack you’ll certainly never forget and echoes brilliantly the randomized freedom/difference of professional surfers’ everyday lifestyles and life on the road thematically. Flaws in DS include that obviously, there’s no overarching narrative or story – making it far easier-to-make than the vast majority of films doing so foundationally. Also, there is only so much you can do (even in a short film) to capture surfing shots differently – while it does certainly make 10x more effort than any previous subject take, it still ends up slightly repetitious by nature and a little long for a short film and short for a long film at 40 min.

The Subjects & Avant-Garde Experimentalism

Finally, the subjects and aesthetic Kai captures and pirouettes on-screen are translated with skillful poise. A cinematic road trip wanting to capture the ambiance of life on-the-road, DS does just that – capturing through candid lifestyle shots and black-and-white portraits the personality and feel of his subjects like a painter or documentarian. The actual surfing itself is – predictively – out of this world, boasting some of the best surfers and technique/dazzling display of the sport you’ll ever see on-screen juxtaposed with its quirky, idiosyncratic experimental sequences. A shirtless chick munching on doughnuts from a sword against a blinding turquoise background, spliced in with a lizard’s frill-extensions, followed by a bust of Julius Caesar wrapped in a garden hose with Mickey Mouse ears, firecrackers going off above a world held together by two severed hands, back into that same girl from before petting a kangaroo doll spliced into shots of a real one they encountered in the countryside of Australia – the symbolism, subliminality, and intended meaning of the shots is enough to drive a person mad, but one that bleeds youthful energy and indie/avant-garde stylism through-and-through as one of the weirdest and wonderful portrayals of it as of late. One that will bring a smile to any cinephile’s face.


A Pirouette Into The Rhapsody Of Wanderlust With Clever Themes Core To Mankind’s Lifestyle Crisis

Overall, Dear Suburbia is a fantasy of adventure set against the cold, stark world of suburbia. The film boasts some of the most breathtaking exotic locations in the world – surfed masterfully by its professional subjects in bold, experimental avant-garde ways bursting with energy and precision-in-editing signature of Kai’s indie filmmaking style. The soundtrack is one of the most diverse and encompassing I’ve ever heard, and object/subliminal sequences rife with weird-and-wonderful indie stylism and symbolism one could take hours thinking about. Although it’s a bit bizarre in length decision being the proverbial Goldilocks in not-short-or-long-enough construction and ~repetitious by nature of sports documentism, it’s a brilliant juxtaposition of the freedom of life on the road and quiet desolation of suburban life/normalcy. An avant-garde juxtaposition of vast expanses vs. suburbia; extemporization vs. cyclicism; freedom vs. desk-job 9-5’s, Kai Neville’s sophomore pirouette into the rhapsody of wanderlust is a love letter to mankind’s existential crisis.

Official CLC Score: 8.7/10