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Fading West: Not Your Typical Surfer Movie

Oct 08, 2013

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“You are about to watch a surfing movie.” Those were the words spoken by Jon Foreman just before screening his band’s documentary, Fading West. I had no idea how to react to this. The closest thing I’ve ever seen to a surfing movie is Lilo & Stitch, and that hardly even had any surfing in it. I had expected to find out more about the band and their touring life; but not surfing. Thankfully the film was much more than just surfing, even though the surfing sequences were superb. Fading West shows off Switchfoot as much more than just the rock band that everyone knows them to be. You’ll see them as surfers, rock stars, brothers traveling the world together, and men who struggle with the same problems as everyone else. 

The concept of Fading West is a rather impressive one. The film crew is following Switchfoot through their 2012 World Tour schedule. While on tour, they’re going to write their new album; they’ll write songs, record some exotic instruments, and try to get inspiration from all over the world. This tour schedule goes through Bali, New Zealand, Australia, and even South Africa. Along the length of the tour, Switchfoot plays shows as enormous as a sold out festival and as small as the corner of a bar. They spend some time in each location, interacting with the people as well as checking out the scenery. They also make sure to take time in each location to catch some waves and even interact with world-famous surfers. 

One of my favorite parts of the film is the introduction of the band. They’re originally introduced playing on stage in front of an enormous crowd as the rock band we all know them to be. But during the rest of the film as we see the band members surfing, they’re reintroduced to us. This is a great reminder that this is a band of brothers who are making music together. Another highlight to me is when the band first goes to Australia. They play a festival called Soundwave, which is a heavy metal festival. Not necessarily the place one would expect to hear Switchfoot. At the festival you see some of the most outrageous bands you’ve ever seen, some of the craziest hair in all of Australia, and you even see Slash walk by. It’s way out of Switchfoot’s comfort zone (as well as a great number of their fans’ comfort zones) but the band says that they enjoy taking steps out of their comfort zones and reaching out to people that no one would expect them to. I really respect that from a band so in the middle of Christian culture; that they’re still able to step out and do something exceptional. 

Critically speaking, this movie was incredible. The editing was superb, the band was showed off in the best way possible, and the camera work was outrageous. I would watch this film again on mute, just to see the scenery where they shot once more. You see peaks of mountains, beautiful landscapes, all types of villages and people, and best of all; surfing. The cameramen literally get into the waves with the band to film the surfing shots. It’s so in depth and breathtaking you feel like you’re surfing with Switchfoot. Another high point of the film is editing. Whether it’s comedic timing or showing off the hectic lifestyle of touring; the editing shines through. It really makes you feel like you’re experiencing life with the Switchfoot boys, and it’s a fun life for sure.

I’ve seen a few documentaries for bands, including For Today and Demon Hunter. While seeing the lives of those bands was great, this film is truly an exception. It’s a wonderful film on its own, and at the same time shows off one of your favorite bands. You’ll see them at their highs and lows, and really feel like you know them on a personal level. Jon, Tim, Drew, Jerome, and Chad are some great men who make some great music. The music of this film is a completely different story, and could be a review of its own. You’ll even catch some tracks from their upcoming album in the background. My favorite part of the film may even be watching their kids all sing the chorus that’s featured on their new single, “Who We Are”. Seeing that makes me feel that much closer to the band listening to the song. 

Switchfoot has always been a band I enjoyed, but now they hold a place as one of my favorites, and so will this film. 

- Written by Ben Mills for hearitfirst.com

 

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