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Review from Simply-Showbiz.Com

Beach Blanket Babylon Goes Nirvana

Aug 30th

Posted by Mark Dundas Wood in Documentaries

The new documentary short Ocean Monk, from director Sanjay Rawal, examines the connection between surfing and Eastern meditation. It follows Rawal and a group of fellow monks—disciples of the late spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy—who live in Queens, NY and incorporate surfing into their quest for transformation and transcendence. The film debuts in September at the NY Surf Film Festival. (Yes, the world of film festivals is getting that niche-y these days.)

The spiritual brothers in this doc are fully committed to this particular meditative activity. Living in the frenetic and crass environment of New York City, they suggest, can be as big an impediment to finding higher truth as the bite of those icy waters off Long Island where the boys regularly Hang Ten. These middle-aged buds are not paddling around in tropical waters with bronzed slackers, after all. We’re talking Queens here, not Maui. The monks take the whole bone-chilling regimen perfectly seriously.

Which is not to say they’re without humor. We watch as one of them hits the frigid waters dressed in a Santa Claus suit. The moment brings to mind those annual news reports in which jolly members of the local Polar Bear Club test their constitutions by cannon-balling into the brine on New Year’s Day.

At points in this 18-minute film you wonder whether these fellows are always in full transcendence-seeking mode when they face these killer waves or maybe just looking for a dangerous kick, a giant high. There’s definitely an undercurrent of Kerouac-ish super-jock attitude within this fraternity, with monks identified as race organizers and Guinness World Record holders. And you can imagine these guys chewing the blubber with the likes of merry prankster Ken Kesey, who tended to look for enlightenment through considerably different channels.

There’s barely a female face in the film, and you just might wonder how these monks would feel about the prospect of women truth-seekers joining their ranks. If a Moondoggie can benefit from this sort of quest for inner tranquility, why not a Gidget, too?

Skillfully photographed and edited, Ocean Monk features repeated shots of crashing waves that illustrate the point that there’s a whole lot of overpowering nature out there to try to feel at one with.

For more information, see www.oceanmonk.com and www.nysurffilm.com.

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