Watching a surf movie is a special event for aficionados of the genre. The films are often short on plot but long on footage of surfing in epic locations. The crowd hoots and hollers as surfers get spit out of tubes and free-fall from the pitching lips of waves as beer bottles smuggled inside roll down the theater floor.
This Thursday, Sebastopol’s Rialto Cinemas is hosting a surf movie night, but it’s going to be a little different. The one-night-only event will feature Saltwater Buddha, a documentary based on Jaimal Yogis’ 2009 memoir of the same name. The book is a series of short stories that follow Yogis as he runs away from his home in Sacramento to learn how to surf in Maui and figure out what do to with his life. Along the 10-year-long journey, he discovers Buddhism and a deeper appreciation for waves and the world.
The film, made by director Lara Popyack and producer Mike Madden, includes footage shot in Hawaii, Costa Rica, El Salvador, New York and San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.
Popyack and Madden approached Yogis about turning his book into a film shortly after it was published, and it has been in production ever since. “It’s taken a really long time,” says Yogis from his home in San Francisco. “There were times when I thought it would never amount to a film.”
The film, made for about $50,000, takes an impressionistic approach to the book with Yogis’ narration and diverse music.
In addition to Saltwater Buddha, the event will feature a performance by Nine Pound Shadow and a screening of the short documentary “Thank You, Please Surf Again,” a film about Surf for Life, a nonprofit “voluntourism” organization that takes surfers to volunteer in impoverished coastal communities.
Berkeley’s Nine Pound Shadow played before Yogis’ bookstore appearances when he was promoting his book. The band has recently been signed to Columbia Records and recorded with produced Danger Mouse.
“It feels like being back where we started,” Yogis says.
Oh, and no need to smuggle in the brews. Beer is for sale, along with wine and a full food menu at the theater.