Italy is absolutely holding. Soul-stirring wine. Incredible food. Beautiful land. Equally beautiful people. Wonderful cars. Masterful artisans. And for the patient, there are even a few waves. Just ask Chris Del Moro. Bella Vita, a new surf film currently making the international film festival tour (and collecting lots of European awards), chronicles Del Moro’s recent jaunt to Italy to retrace his childhood steps in Florence. Directed by Jason Baffa (One California Day, Single Fin: Yellow), the film also features Dave Rastovich, Lauren Hill, the Coffin brothers, and Italian supergrom Leo Fioravanti. While the crew scores, it’s mostly of the culinary and cultural variety. There might be more footage of eating than surfing, but that’s alright, the food looks magnificent. In fact, the cuisine prompts some of the best dialogue in Bella Vita, like when Hill points out that even though they hadn’t really lucked into quality surf, “the dinner table has been pumping.” The Coffins weren’t complaining either, boasting of their love for food while laying out the evolution of their nicknames from “fatties,” to “fat kids”, to “fat boys.” “We live the lifestyle very proudly,” Parker explains.
It’s not all about food. There are Italian history lessons from art to boating to winemaking. Del Moro revisits his family haunts, points out where his family spent all day cooking, and tells you things you didn’t really want to hear about his grandma walking in on him in the shower. Rasta talks conservation and wears ugly hats. Murals are painted. Interviews with charming Italian artisans abound. It’s a sepia-toned paean to everything Italy.
Ah, but the surfing, you ask. There is some. Not a great amount, but enough to make you strongly consider booking a ticket to Rome. Italian surf is fickle to the extreme, but it’s warm, pretty uncrowded, and littered with setups. Based on the surfing in Bella Vita, it’s a longboarder’s dream trip. A bunch of the film’s surf sequences are at a wonky reefbreak right-hander that looks like it could be the most fun wave in the world, but you just know it doesn’t break very often. Del Moro and company mostly ride short, stubby little hybrids, or longboards, or in Rasta’s case, stand up on a boogieboard, so the performance-level is pretty chill, at least until the Coffin bros and Fioravanti get cracking late in the film.
If you’ve seen One California Day, you know that Baffa has a cinematographer’s eye, and a talent for cruisy, contemplative pacing, and that’s mostly the feel of Bella Vita too. But unless you’re way into Italian culture, or a really, really big fan of Del Moro, there’s definitely an urge to fast-forward to the surf scenes. It’s certainly worth a look, but don’t go in expecting surf porn. Do go in with a bottle of Chianti.
Bella Vita just wrapped up multiple screenings in Santa Barbara, and will be announcing more soon. It’s scheduled for wide release in April.