Posted August 7, 2008 in The Small Screen

There is a tendency to want to swallow documentaries whole as “truth” just as we read non-fiction books that way, or watch news reports on TV. But the real “truth” is that all of those things are merely collections of facts, put together in a certain way to tell a certain story. Surfwise, the latest documentary by Doug Pray (maker of 2001’s study of turntablism, Scratch) tells the certain story of Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, a Stanford educated MD who chucked all the trappings of society in the late ’50s and went on to raise nine children on a diet of surfing and organic food with his wife in a 24-foot camper. Was Paskowitz insane, or did he have it all figured out? Pray skillfully lets the pendulum sway first one way then the other as he portrays the octogenarian initally as a kind of surfing philosopher who apes apes, then shifts perspective to that of Doc’s now grown children who didn’t particularly like overhearing their parents have sex at night. To them, Doc was a ten-foot tall tyrant, who may have raised them “right” but left them woefully unprepared to handle modern “normal” life outside the world he created in the camper (although, interestingly, all nine seem to have achieved a measure of success without formal education). Pray’s documentary style feels surprisingly unbiased—he presents the Paskowitz family as interesting social experiment and leaves it up to the viewer to assess the results. (Red Vaughn) 


Magnolia Home Entertainment, 93 minutes






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