Keeping it reel

"Never Been Done: The John Comer Story," explores the life of professional skateboarder John Comer, who lost his right leg as a boy.

Two documentaries at the Malibu Film Festival explore the world of surfing and skateboarding away from the corporate influence. Another filmmaker hopes his short about date rape will make more people aware of the problem.

By Jonathan Friedman/Assistant Editor

Professional surfer Chris Malloy decided to make surf films after appearing in a few that he felt weren’t representative of what the sport was about. Malloy, 32, said the films showed he and other surfers as acrobatic athletes on the waves who were well off financially and out to conquer, which was not a true portrait. So he and some friends formed a group called The Moonshine Conspiracy, and began making their own films. The Moonshine Conspiracy’s fourth surf film, “A Brokedown Melody,” will be screened on the opening night of the Malibu Film Festival at the Malibu Pier on Sept. 16.

“We consider this film to be a little more traditional,” said producer Tim Lynch. “It doesn’t take you through Surfing 101. There is no narrator. We allow the music and the commentary from the surfers to tell the story and, of course, the footage of the surfing itself.”

Malloy, who directed the film, said, “A Brokedown Melody” is about passing the torch. The movie includes surfers of old and those from the new generation. Footage in the film, which was made over a three-year period, comes from all over the world, including Indonesia, Jamaica, Tahiti, Hawaii and Mexico. Malloy said while most surfing films are designed to appeal to a mass audience, he wanted to specifically talk to the surfing community, especially its younger citizens.

“What we’re saying is, ‘We’re a tribe that has been around for literally thousands of years; we’re the only ones who have the possibility of continuing that legacy. The question is what are we going to do with it?'”

Surfing’s cousin sport, skateboarding, is dealt with in another documentary being shown at the festival, Matt Powers’ “Never Been Done: The John Comer Story.” The film explores the life of professional skateboarder John Comer, who lost his right leg as a boy. Comer became the first skateboarder to use a prosthetic leg.

“I want to show people that if you have a goal, you can accomplish it, no matter what the odds are,” Powers said.

Powers spent about three years making the film with a small crew and little money. He said it often became a struggle to keep up with something for so long under those circumstances, but he never felt like quitting, although on occasion he wanted to take long breaks. But Powers’ hard work has paid off, as he has already inspired people with similar conditions to Comer’s.

“We get a lot of e-mails from kids who lost their legs, and they want to be pro skaters,” Powers said. “Comer is an inspiration. This film will hopefully inspire people with a positive message, and there is not much positive in the media today.”

Powers, 28, has been skateboarding since he was 8, although he doesn’t get to do it as much nowadays. He became interested in film while attending UC Santa Barbara because “all the other subjects were not much fun.” Powers is currently making a documentary on the rock band Primus.

The Malibu double

Brad Furman has two movies playing at the Malibu Film Festival. One, “The Stranger,” deals with a woman and her young son, who never met his dead father. A stranger comes to the house who has information about the father. The film explores how the boy deals with the death of his father, an airplane pilot he never knew.

“As a child, I was always fascinated by airplanes,” Furman said. “I was amazed to see them in the sky, considering I can only jump two feet and hold myself in the air for two seconds.”

Furman’s other film, “Unbroken,” is a four-minute movie starring Rachel Bilson from television’s “The O.C.” The movie is about a woman who has been raped by a close friend. The woman replays the incident in her head, as well as the events that led to it. Furman said he hopes with this film people who have been the victim of date rape or rape by a person close to them will become more comfortable to speak out and tell their stories.

The film is being used on the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, or RAINN. Furman also made several one-minute public service announcements for the organization, which will soon be appearing on television. They also feature Bilson, who starred in them and in “Unbroken” before her popularity skyrocketed with “The O.C.”

Furman, 29, first became interested in film after being introduced to the craft by one of his professors at Emory University in Atlanta. He later transferred to NYU, where he earned a film degree. Furman was selected as one of the top new directors of 2004 by the Universal Studios/MVPA panel.