Just because you have a great story to tell doesn't mean it will be told correctly, and too often in the world of surf documentaries that potential never tips; the heart of the matter never quite reveals itself. That said, Between The Lines: The True Story Of Surfers During the Vietnam War delivers on its promise. Two surfers unflinchingly and with brutal honesty recount their experiences during the Vietnam War, and with the aid of John Milius' spot-on narration, clever writing, and precious archival footage, a great story reveals itself.
"People don’t realize what war does to you," said Farley. "I was at the point where I enjoyed killing and wanted to kill.”
Meet Pat Farley. Pat Farley abandons the California coast and surfing lifestyle that had consumed his childhood, and elects to enlist in the army, serving his country when called upon. Guided by Apocalypse Now writer, John Milius', powerful narration, he rehashes his traumatic year (and a day) in combat, and explains the significance surfing had in both his survival and culture among R&R camps in Vietnam.
"People don't realize what war does to you," said Farley. "I was at the point where I enjoyed killing and wanted to kill. I had a story to tell, and I wanted people to know what can happen."
Surprisingly, a prosperous surf scene emerged in the shadow of the battlefield. In one of the film's highlights, a soldier recounts his dangerous quest to score perfect A-frames in Viet Cong territory – where he and a fellow soldier share a session of a lifetime. This confirms what all surfers have suspected to be true: perfect, uncrowded waves are to die for.
By contrast, Brant Page resolves to evade the draft and the war, opting to vagabond along the coast of California and Hawaii. There he learns to survive on a shoestring and with resourcefulness not too dissimilar from that his brethren had acquired in Vietnam. He too demonstrates conviction and courage in risking his freedom to live the life he wanted.
Said Page, 'When I was in Hawaii I spent a lot of time alone and had very little. I'd get beaten up by the locals and had my car broken into…and I kept running this Bob Dylan song through my head "When You Ain't Got Nothing, You Got Nothing To Lose," – and that's how I felt – I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.'
Aside from the hardships incurred on both ends of the draw, the film centralizes on themes of choice and autonomy.
Said Director of Photography, Troy Page, "The film shows both sides very well and we tried to give a very balanced view of the war. I see it one way, and someone else can watch it and see something else completely different. And that I think is the beauty of the project. We're not trying to force a message down anyone's throats. The viewer can take away their own message."
This particular story was told for the very first time at Hansen's Surf Shop in Encinitas, CA for a sold out crowd to benefit the Rick Thomas Counseling Center at the Veterans Village of San Diego. A live auction kicked off the event, in which an exclusive Jim Phillips Between The Lines surfboard was auctioned off for a hefty $3,600. In the true spirit of the premiere, the auction winner promised to donate the board to the Center for Veterans where all of the proceeds would also be donated.
For more information on Between The Lines visit: Between The Lines Official Website.