Besieged surfers are reeling under a damning new categorization: “You are all part of the mediocre white man industrial complex!”
Easy to judge, difficult to watch.
The new cinema In La Tormenta documents the last five years of WQS hopeful Jhonny Guerrero.
Here is the short version:
Guerrero learned to surf a broken board in Lima while his father was sitting in the infernal prison of Lurigancho in Peru, his mother and little brother without food and broke into Chorrillos, one of Lima’s many dangerous barrios. .
Understandably, gang life seemed like a fun option for Jhonny until he got shot in the back in a drive-by.
While not explicitly prohibited in the ‘QS Rule Book, none of this is good practice.
Director Adam Brown originally traveled to Peru in 2015 to shoot Sofia MulÃ¡novich Project, a talent-seeking and surf training academy led by Sophia herself, a former ASP World Tour champion and current ISA World Games gold medalist. Most of the children invited to Projecto came from the country’s middle and upper classes, equipped with beautiful quivers and supportive parents.
Jhonny had neither, showing up alone on the beach with an old board and a hole in his wetsuit.
Brown said he âkept hearing about this kid called Jhonny Guerrero who came from a tough neighborhood. He had supposedly learned to surf a piece of foam then a broken board he found on the beach and now he was absolutely ripping. He sounded a bit of a myth and every time I told the Sofia team that we had to accompany them to the trials there was always a hesitation. There were (unsubstantiated) rumors at the time that Jhonny was robbing people on the beach to survive.
Still, Sofia took her chances with the calm kid, seeing both his drive and his natural ability to correctly read a wave.
âHere in Peru, most of the families who surf know each other and their love for the sport is passed down from generation to generation,â Sofia told me. âBut Jhonny was from town and no one really knew about him and his family. He comes from a very unstable social background and I decided to help him because he could not afford to have good equipment and good supervision, but he was super talented.
And he was just as good as people had described him: smooth and fluid, a raw talent that got Sofia and her coaches excited. Jhonny ended up being selected as part of a group of ten talented children who would be trained by Sofia and her team.
Sofia’s interest in helping Jhonny went beyond teaching him how to get more power from his back foot. She and the others at Projecto helped him keep away from the gangs that plagued his neighborhood.
âJhonny has always been in an environment that brought him to live on the streets, so we tried to help him by guiding him in the best possible way to put all his energy into his surfing. We moved it to another house with a really nice surfing family, âsaid Sofia.
In the film, Jhonny is seen looking for sponsors including Hurley and others who throw clothes and money at him, which he uses to buy a bed for his little brother and give some to his mom who tells him, exhausted. : so hungry.
Happy forever. Thanks, Hurley.
But the story arc of In La Tormenta is not it clean.
Even with the lifeline Sophia hands him, Jhonny comes back to what he knows. He is anchored in the street. In the Peruvian Under-16 final, Jhonny was the favorite to win, but he never reached the sands, leaving Sofia and her support team defeated. When the camera catches his trainer trying to make sense of him, Jhonny appears numb, indifferent at best.
Soon after, he would be in the hospital treating two bullets in his body.
It’s easy to judge him here, a kid with raw talent who has received a golden ticket to learn from Sofia MulÃ¡novich with all the accompaniments: boards, swag, cash then throw everything to return to the temptations of his barrio.
But the environment everything and need has no law.
This is where the movie is at its best, leaving us to grapple with Jhonny’s decisions as we roam our own eyes in our comfortable, upholstered living rooms.
Luckily for Jhonny, Sofia and her trainers didn’t let him run the streets for a long time and a few months after filming we watch an emotional Jhonny back in the water on the QS, performing well.
In La Tormenta ends before Hurley abandons his team last year and before COVID-19 prevents Jhonny’s chances of continuing on tour.
âCut adrift by circumstance,â as director Adam Brown puts it.
Sofia and Brown are in frequent contact with Jhonny. I also don’t know if he will be able to make it to TB.
Back in Chorrillos, Jhonny continues his interest in Latin rap and has been seen in a few surfing competitions around Lima lately. Sofia believes Jhonny has learned over the years that hard work pays off.
“He is a truly charismatic young man who can be successful in so many areas if he puts his whole heart and soul into it.”
Watching the film, one wonders what will happen to the child who is filmed crying more than smiling, dividing his time between the ocean and the street.
And although beautifully filmed (JJF filmmaker Erik Knutson spent a few days behind the lens), In La Tormenta is not a promotional video.
In case you want to throw in a dollar or two to help poor children in Lima neighborhoods learn to surf, you can check out Alto Peru.
It just won the Best Picture award at the Brooklyn Film Festival 2020 and will be available on BBC City of historye in January.
Good viewing between CT contests.