WHEN he learned that two separate film festivals planned to screen his latest work on the same night, one in Hawaii and one in France, surf cinematographer Nathan Apffel went with the obvious choice.
"Hawaii is the epicenter of surf around the world. … at least to me," said Apffel, a globe-trotting filmmaker who wanted to see the reaction of audiences who live in the birthplace of surfing.
"It’s where I want to be and where the film sets the best, and Hawaii is definitely the choice," he said.
The 25-year-old Californian will be in town to attend the Hawaii premiere of his "Lost Prophets" when it opens the Honolulu Academy of Arts’ Surf Film Festival. The festival, which often favors substance over whiplash surfing tricks, runs tonight through July 31 in its third annual appearance at the Doris Duke Theatre.
Festival organizers say this year’s collection of films is their best ever.
SURF FILM FESTIVAL
The third annual screening of surf and surf-related films from around the world.
Where: Honolulu Academy of Arts, Doris Duke Theatre
When: Today- July 31
Cost: $55 for festival pass; $12 for opening night; $8 for matinee screenings; $8.50 for evening screenings; discounts available for seniors, students, the military and children.
Info: (808) 532-8700; www .honoluluacademy.org
Note: Opening night reception: today, 6-7:30 p.m., Honolulu Academy of Arts Pavilion Courtyard, featuring beer from Kona Brewing Co., Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, global cuisine from Da Spot and music by Dr. Zaius. Filmmaker Nathan Apffel will introduce his film, "Lost Prophets."
FILMS IN THE SERIES
THE LINEUP — which includes classics such as George Greenough’s 1968 film "Innermost Limits of Pure Fun" and 10 Hawaii premieres — will offer audiences an array of unusual stories: "Gum for My Boat," which chronicles the Bangladesh Surf Club, "Out of Place," about surfers on Lake Eerie and "Somewhere Near Tapachula," the tale of an Australian couple who adopted 54 Mexican children and taught them to surf.
Apffel is eager to see how Hawaii’s surf-savvy filmgoers will react to "Lost Prophets," a film he considers unconventional because it relies on stories rather than wave after wave of action — what some in the industry have dubbed "surf porn."
Apffel’s film profiles eight surfers — "working-class heroes" — whose devotion to the ocean outweighs the commercial aspects of the surf industry, he said.
"Surfing started as a very rootsy, humble sport, an adventure, going to a distant land and being in tune with nature," he said. "Surfing as a sport has broken away from that. It has gone this commercial route, and ‘Lost Prophets’ is a call out to the industry to get back to our roots."
THE FESTIVAL’S 15 films include several that underscore an evolving trend in the surf film genre, said Gina Caruso, film curator at the academy.
"I wanted to show that the new surf films had stories," she said. "It wasn’t just about watching fabulous surfing and pro surfers. It was people telling stories. It’s a new direction."
But these are still surf films. Beauty and power played a role.
And in "Fiberglass and Megapixels," danger also has a part.
The film by brothers Derek and Craig Hoffmann examines surf photographers and cinematographers and the extremes they go to in order to capture fleeting moments of surfing.
Swimming into huge breaking waves to get within inches of a surfer — and the fins on the surfer’s board — takes skills that often go unrecognized, said Derek Hoffmann, who at 43 is the older of the brothers.
"We wanted to take viewers into a world they may not have experienced before," he said.
"A lot of people may have seen surfing, but a lot of people who have talked to me say they don’t notice all the surf photographers in the water and on the beach."
Craig Hoffmann, 40, said they wanted to create a film that was different from the typical, repetitive action film that he can’t bear to watch — but he doesn’t think the surf industry is set to embrace a new format yet.
"Most surf films are eye candy," he said. "I think the industry has to start getting deeper into stories and the characters rather than just the overpublished images of people on the wave doing the same thing over and over."
The brothers are thrilled to be part of the academy’s festival, which they believe will showcase some of the best films in their expanding genre. And the organizers are thrilled, too.
"I think we are in a great place," Caruso said. "The films here are fabulous."
The reason is easy to identify, she said. At a time when surf film festivals are shown in New York and France, thoughtful films — spiced with a few sunny, blue barrels — have put the academy’s festival on the map.
"There is something for everyone in this film festival," she said. "If you are not a surfer, that shouldn’t keep you away. And surfers will be blown away."
Corrected: The names of Craig and Derek Hoffmann were misspelled in an earlier version of this story posted Friday. Also, the film "Fiberglass and Megapixels" will also be shown Wednesday and July 30. An earlier version of this story did not have complete information.