Like a really hungry North American sitting down to an Italian Sunday feast, Bella Vita, a new surf doc from director Jason Baffa, bites off a lot, and manages to chew most of it.
Following surfer, artist and environmentalist Chris Del Moro as he travels with friends to his ancestral home in Italy, the film is currently making the rounds at international film fests and just had its US premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
With a cast of characters like Dave Rastovich, Lauren Hill, and the Coffin Brothers, you may think that Bella Vita is all surf, just with a European backdrop. But the movie is anything but your average surf flick.
For starters, Italy doesn’t exactly jump out as the location for a surf doc, let alone the location to surf, period. But as Bella Vita shows us, there’s a lot more going on in Italy’s surf scene than you might expect. Here we get a crash course in Italian surf history, starting in the 60s and 70s with the country’s first shapers, all the way up to today, with surfers like Alessandro Ponzanelli and Leonardo Fioravanti, a surf prodigy who’s been winning competitions on a global level.
But it’s not just the setting that makes Bella Vita a bit of a an oddball among surf films. In fact, even calling it a surf doc in the first is probably an oversimplification. Because, alongside some kicking surf footage, gorgeously shot on 35mm, Bella Vita also brings a taste of Italy’s landscapes, food and drink, art, and culture into the mix.
Here, we watch Del Moro and co. as they help out with the harvest at a Tuscan vineyard, sample authentic Italian cheese and coffee, chill with artisans and other locals, or set out to paint a mural. And that’s not even getting into the whole family memoir slash cultural rekindling thing that Del Moro’s got going on as soon as he sets down on Italian soil.
Bella Vita‘s like a rich spread, with tons of different dishes set (not necessarily in order) on a really big table. If you’re looking for just one flavor, say, something along the lines of a pure surf film, it’ll be hard to find in such a big buffet.
But if you’re the kind who likes to pop the cork and wander slowly around the party, mingling with guests and sampling a bit of this and a bit of that, Bella Vita is a flick that’ll give you a taste for all things Italian, including the surf.