Tackling surf culture on a big screen
HOT on the heels of its success at the Cape Town International Film Festival in October, award-winning director Eubulus Timothy’s Deep End is set to hit the big screen soon.
The film, produced by Arclight Productions, features Carishma Basday in the lead as Sunitha, Greg Kriek as Cory, and Suraya Rose-Santos as Nina – with a guest appearance by South African surfing legend Spider Murphy.
The coming-of-age romantic drama tells the story of a young girl who overcomes family pressure and racism to pursue her “not culturally acceptable” passion with the help of an unlikely champion surfer trying to escape his drug addiction and his own family demons.
She is the apple of her father’s eye and this conflict almost destroys the very foundation of their once-strong bond, unmasking the pain of his forgotten past.
Timothy said Deep End was born on the day his sister got married.
“After the wedding in Durban, my parents and the rest of my siblings drove back to my home in Cape Town. That night, on the old dilapidated road between Bethlehem and Bloemfontein, I was driving and my dad was asleep next to me.
“Suddenly he cried out. I thought he had seen something on the darkened road ahead. He said, ‘Chloe is married huh!’ That incident triggered the thought about what a father goes through when his daughter is of a certain age and she is no longer a girl,” he said.
Timothy said the characters were exciting and energetic and easy to relate to on a global level.
“The issues they deal with are common and perennial. Relationships, family and a sense of belonging.
“But, more important, Deep End is about culture, capturing the essence of the ancient Gujarati culture in the
21st century, and the extreme and sometimes dark culture of surfing.”
Timothy added that one did not have to be a surfer to identify because surfing was an aspirational thing.
“Though it is never a frequent bucket list item yet, we all wish we could do it.
“The beach culture is the very heart of Durban. Fishing among the Indian community goes back to 1860 when they first arrived on the shores of Durban as indentured labourers.
“Yet surfing for the Indian community is noted from afar. It belonged mainly to the white community and Indians would watch with not much aspiration.
“Fuelled localism that leads regularly to fights over who owns the waves at a particular beach still exists. So when a group of young white female surfers sees Sunitha ‘steal’ their waves, it opens up a new localism that translates to women.
“Their fear deepens when they see their heart-throb Cory fall for Sunitha. This leads to surf rage and pseudo-racism. Deep End is about hope and passion, tradition and change.”
The film has been well received, having premiered at the recent Cape Town International Film Festival – no easy feat to secure.
Asked why he thought it resonated so well with audiences, Timothy said: “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would get the responses I got, especially (in) Cape Town. There was a common theme that seemed to resonate with the audiences. Dreams were the main theme that people spoke about…
“An opportunity for Sunitha’s hidden dream to be fulfilled. How does she follow her dreams and not lose her culture? This is a question that has to be explored in the new South Africa.
“A lot of my female friends who read the script identified with Kalpana’s (the lead character’s mother) forgotten dreams.
“Someone told me: ‘That’s my life. My family loves me but they don’t understand me.’ It was the misplaced dream of an overzealous father. A father out of his depth who thinks he understands the women in his life.
“Other points that people mentioned were the realism in portraying women. They identified with the strength and power of the mother.”
Speaking about Basday, Timothy said: “After almost a year of searching, Jailoshini Naidoo introduced me to Carishma. She came up to Durban from Cape Town and read for me at my office. I knew I had found my lead.
“Carishma identified with the character and saw herself in Sunitha. She is professional. She did her homework. Knew her lines. She was first on set and was totally committed to Sunitha.”
While Deep End is set to release at cinemas in March, Timothy is already steering more projects ahead. “We are working on The Cane
Cutter, a romantic comedy that spans 100 years. It is about a young man who drops out of university to make a documentary about his great-grandfather, who came as an indentured labourer on the last ship. It is about the 1860 settlers and their descendants and their contribution to South Africa.
“I have also been given a great opportunity to remake John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger.
Richard Burton played the lead in the original.
“It is such a thrill to do this. I will set it in Phoenix (Durban). Remember, it’s about the angry young man in a class war.”
Carishma Basday inDeep End.
On location with some of the DeepEnd crew, from left: Ashley Aldworth, Eubulus Timothy, Ebrahim Hajee and Francois Coetzee