Famous for tanned torsos, skimpy bikinis and one naff song, Rio’s Copacabana Beach is a favourite surfing haunt for locals from ‘the hill’ behind it. A sprawling favela, the hill is notorious for drug trafficking and violence. Indeed, many youngsters never make it past their teens. But volatile Fabio, 13, and best friend Naama, 12, find an alternative route – a youth organisation called The Favela Surf Club. Both kids have lost fathers in shootings and consider surfing (and the possible riches to follow) the only means of escape. But will they both stick to the same road map?
Somewhat hamstrung by its rambling structure, rickety editing and an ending that suggests the filmmakers ran out of rushes, Justin Mitchell’s surf doc is, nevertheless, a likeable and laid-back portrait of opposing lifestyles and an appropriate illustration of how new pastimes can help guide the dispossessed along more fruitful paths. Lush photography, fine footage and a surfy soundtrack keep things trucking even if it never amounts to anything profound or enlightening.