On a surface level, Johnes’s doc seems like run-of-the-mill surf hagiography, and it’s one weakness lies in how it paints Gabeira as the only female big wave surfer in the world. However, she, along with the other women in the sport, face more than just the ordinary challenges of the sport. Starting out as a teen, she had to overcome rampant sexism to find a partner who would team up with her. Throughout her career she had to endure men saying over and over that she is not athletic enough. That she is just a pretty face with good tits and a great ass. And when she does finally break the record for women, there isn’t even a category yet in the Guinness Book of World Records for the achievement. The fight to have it recognized is as perilous as her training, therapy sessions, and surgeries after a serious injury threatens to end her career.
Gabeira, it seems, gets her internal strength and perseverance from her father, radical Brazilian politician Fernando Gabeira, whose life was dramatized in Oscar-nominated film “Four Days in September”. But what makes Maya such a compelling subject and Johnes’s portrait of her so different from films about male surf legends, is Gabeira’s willingness to admit her fear. “I do it because I’m afraid. It wouldn’t be exhilarating if I wasn’t scared,” she shares. Most big wave surfers are adrenaline junkies; it’s in embracing this fear that brings the courage to tackle these water giants over and over and over again. There’s something glorious about Gabeira’s innate understanding of this, but also her raw honesty in admitting it.
This same courage and conviction in a world dominated by men is at the heart of Oscar-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras’s “All The Beauty and the Bloodshed,” which serves as a career retrospective of artist Nan Goldin, whose body of work is an exploration of art as politics and activism, and a touching tribute to the Goldin’s late sister Barbara, whose life was cut short by familial neglect and repression of that which is inherently rebellious in the female spirit.
In the 1980s Goldin’s “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” a slide show series and book of photographs the artist took of her friends between 1979 and 1986 mades waves in the art world. Unlike the staid black and white portraits that were en vogue at the time, her lush color photographs were simultaneously intimate and cinematic. Describing their impact, Goldin says that those who look at them often see characters, while those who are in them see themselves.