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Film review: 'Ocean Tribe'

8 April 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

"There was a report of a pod of dolphins off the coast of Mexico who spent three days swimming around a dying dolphin, trying to keep him afloat. They took turns pushing him back to the surface for air until they finally let the ocean have her way."

Thus is the stage set for "Ocean Tribe", a winning portrait of a group of childhood surfer buddies who reunite to see their terminally ill friend catch one last wave.

First-time writer-director Will Geiger makes a considerable splash with this energetic and moving picture, which recently received its world premiere at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

Despite its subject matter, this is no movie-of-the-week sob story. Packed with colorful characterizations and breathtaking surfing cinematography, "Ocean Tribe" defies its bottom-of-the-barrel budget with rich storytelling and production values.

When they receive word that their childhood pal Bob Vaughn Roberts) is lying in a cancer ward with a grim future, Noah (Gregg Rainwater), Schwartz (Robert Caso), Jeb (Troy Fazio) and Lance (Mark Matheisen) reunite for the first time in seven years for a farewell road trip to Baja, Mexico.

Of course, things have changed since high school. Noah has a green-card wife and is about to become a father; Schwartz is on the verge of becoming a doctor even though he's terrified of the sight of blood; rebel Jeb just came out of prison after serving time for a drug offense; and ladies' man Lance is having trouble kick-starting his acting career.

When they show up to kidnap their buddy from his hospital bed, Bob, freshly bald from chemotherapy sessions, is less than enthusiastic. But when his friends return with shaved heads and refuse to take no for an answer, he ultimately goes along for the ride.

Strapping a wheelchair to the top of their brightly painted Olds ambulance-turned-surf wagon, they take to the road in search of a monster swell, not to mention themselves.

Geiger's cast, many of whom have worked with Tim Robbins' Actors Gang, make for a believable group of childhood friends -- in many ways no longer the people they once were, though they often revert to their old behavioral patterns.

The film is not without its share of murky plot points and could do with fewer montages of sun-kissed vistas, but Geiger shows considerable promise as a writer and director. A twilight sequence involving the actors swimming among a group of dolphins is magic, as is the touching closing scene.

Technical contributions are all first-rate, led off by Harris Done's crisp photography and, especially, Jeff Neu's invigorating water footage. Jeremy Kasten's smooth editing and Sean Murray's always-in-sync atmospheric score also shine.

OCEAN TRIBE

SeaReel Prods.

Director-screenwriter Will Geiger

Producer Will Geiger

Director of photography Harris Done

Art director Steve Espinoza

Editor Jeremy Kasten

Costume designer Georgia Alemanni

Music Sean Murray

Color/stereo

Cast:

Noah Gregg Rainwater

Schwartz Robert Caso

Jeb Troy Fazio

Lance Mark Matheisen

Bob Vaughn Roberts

Padre Delbert Brian Brophy

Running time -- 102 minutes

No MPAA rating

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1 item from 1997


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