Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Film Documentary: Eddie Vedder on Laird Hamilton

This documentary I happened to trip over last night. I was flicking over the television channels, having a few beers in the house. I have been a big Pearl Jam fan for years now. I was surprised that I had never heard of this film before. I didn't even have an idea who Laird Hamilton was.

It turns out Laird Hamilton is a massive surfer, famous for riding 100 feet waves. The images of him as a tiny dot, surfing these massive fields of water is astounding. There is so much wrapped up with this- courage, stupidity, spirituality, existential endeavor.

The film documents the bonding of these two friends. They are very different in lots of ways. Eddie is a world famous musician and songwriter. Laird is a surfer who has had his face on Time Magazine. The artist and the jock.

There are many similarities too. They have had issues with father figures in their lives. Laird talked about his step father, who was also a famous surfer. If he failed, it was okay as he wasn't the real deal. Eddie talked about his biological father, who he never knew as his father until he had past away. He too was a musician and in his earlier career, Eddie had his own sense of achievement diminished by others, who said that the musician in him came from his father. Eddies reaction was that he should be given individual credit for his individual efforts.

They both have their own families now. Eddie has a daughter and Laird seems to have many children. At one point in the film, while Laird is packing his jeep, his daughter calls down from their home, 'Daddy, do you like my hair?' He stops his conversation mid-sentence with Eddie, telling his daughter how beautiful she is.

It great seeing these individuals away from the normal narratives of celebrity. It adds weight to the film when they explore issues of spirituality and life choices.

The film is littered with Pearl Jam songs about surfing. I never focused on this aspect of Pearl jam before. Rather than release a greatest hits album, as all band do- they should have released a surfing album instead!

Both friends go out surfing. They talk about being aware of 'the outside' in this activity, of being part of their natural environment. The danger and vulnerability of these activities 'brings them closer to nature.' This is such a cliche but no less true for that. They have a sense of belonging when in the sea.

The film ends with Laird cycling 75 miles to see Pearl Jam perform. He gets a back stage pass. Eddie dedicates the song 'Big Wave' to him.

This was a pleasant surprise last night. Just goes to show that channel surfing can often pay off!

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