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Image 1 for Interviews with Albe Falzon and Justin Misch on the remastered Morning of the Earth

The Yo-Yo Man, who was cut from the original move – and now he’s back.

Image 2 for Interviews with Albe Falzon and Justin Misch on the remastered Morning of the Earth

Albe in the cave at Ulu, and at home in 2022.

Image 3 for Interviews with Albe Falzon and Justin Misch on the remastered Morning of the Earth

Rusty Miller, and the cliff-top cheersquad – from MOTE: The Lost Reels.

Image 4 for Interviews with Albe Falzon and Justin Misch on the remastered Morning of the Earth

Nat and Bob. Justin spent three years meticulously restoring frame-by-frame - 150 thousand frames in all - to its original colour and density, and cleaned every frame.

Image 5 for Interviews with Albe Falzon and Justin Misch on the remastered Morning of the Earth

Interviews with Albe Falzon and Justin Misch on the remastered Morning of the Earth

12 October 22

In lssue 110 of Pacific Longboarder magazine we took a look at the newly-released video of Morning of the Earth, Albe Falzon’s genre-defining surf film masterpiece that’s currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. The movie’s been completely re-mastered and has never looked better, and includes never-before-seen out-takes. It’s quite something!

The PLB story and the pictures make for a great read. Here's the full text from our interview with Albe from his home on the NSW North Coast. We also had a quick chat with Justin Misch, the 30-year-old Californian film genius who used his technical know-how to bring new life to a movie that many say is the best that the surf community has ever seen.

DVD copies are available in the PLB shop here

Interviews by Ian Cameron

Hi Albe – tell us, what does Morning of the Earth have to say in 2022? 

It’s not so much about the personalities which is how it was all those years ago. It’s more about what the title represented; Morning of the Earth was about the earth initially, and it’s always been about the earth and the good fortune of us being here as surfers. But way back when we did it, we had the various star surfers in it and they sort of took precedence. But now what we’ve done is we’ve gone full circle and we’ve moved more towards sustainability and the environmental issues of the planet because really, when it gets down to it, that’s more important than any individual personality in the film or out of the film because it’s our home. Since we made the film, the population of the world has doubled! And there’s been such a demand on the earth’s resources and raw materials that it’s really important that everyone pulls back a bit, I think, and that’s the essence of the film, it really is that. And I think, for me, that’s why it’s important that we release it now, just try to make people more aware that, hey, we’ve really got to take care of the earth.

Do you think the audience made that connection back when the movie first came out? 

I think we did, but not so much. Back then we were aware of the exploitation of the whales and took a stand on that, we were living an alternate lifestyle and were conscious of caring for the planet, but looking back, it was like on a minuscule scale because we only had a small reach within the surfing community. So we planted the seed to take care of the planet and being responsible for our decisions in relation to that. But surfing was predominantly the most important part of the film at that point. I mean if you look at the film, it doesn’t focus that much on the climate. It’s a very beautiful film but it’s predominantly about surfing and the beauty of surfing and it still is. But the essence of it is - it’s about the earth, the morning of the earth, and we played a role in it, the film and Tracks magazine played a really important role in bringing that consciousness out in the surfing community back then – but that awareness is really, really important today, I think more important now because of the huge increase in the population and the demands placed on the earth as a result of that.

The re-mastered film looks great. How did the project unfold? 

Justin Misch was restoring really old film, mostly 8mm film for a project on “Spoons” that was filmed in those early surfing days in California. And he said to me, “Have you ever thought about having your film restored and brought up to date?” Because he’s a traditionalist, he just loves film and the director’s vision. I said, “Well I’ve just been waiting for someone like you to come along and do it!” And that was it. We formed a close relationship, over the next six months, that just grew. We asked that the original film, which was held in the Government archives in Canberra, be sent to Justin in California. He then spent the next three years meticulously restoring frame by frame - 150 thousand frames in all - to its original colour and density, and cleaned every frame. The end result of that is we’ve probably got the best-looking film that you’ll see now, it’s actually better than the original. For me, when I saw it finished, it was like looking at the film for the very first time. 

The restoration has also reinstated the missing “yo-yo man” footage.

To this day it’s still a mystery how yo yo man disappeared from the film, I still don’t know who cut that from the film. I think it was Justin who found the original footage and put it back in, but I have no idea how it disappeared out of the film. And it was really interesting because having frontal male nudity is tricky, you’ve got to be careful because the censorship rating is critical… particularly if you’re showing a film to a youth audience. When we took the film through the rating system in Australia, David Elfick and myself, we had to get it assessed by the Government people who rate movies. David and I both knew that it was a really sensitive area because you’ve got a naked, front-on hippie with a yo-yo, it was too bizarre not to be included in the film, but we didn’t want the film to get an X-rating as a result. So we’re sitting in a small viewing booth, the three of us - the guy who does the assessing, David’s on one side of him and I’m on the other side, and we’re watching the film... we knew exactly when yo yo man was going to come up on the screen. And David, being David, distracted the guy by asking him a technical question just before the yo yo scene was about to appear on screen and the assessor turned around and started talking directly to David and in the time it took for him to answer the question and turn back to the screen, the scene had gone by. We got a General Exhibition rating! (laughs) And David and I walked out of there, saying that was too good! 

Fifty years on, is there an audience for Morning of the Earth? 

Oh yeah, I think it’s huge. The thing is, it’s unique because there’s an enormous number of young people in the world today, many of them will never surf but because it’s different there’d be some interest there. But the thing that will bring them to the film, I think, is the soundtrack. It’s a really great and timeless soundtrack. If you listen to the narrative, to the words of the songs, I think they’re more important today than when we first released the film. Especially in respect to the environment and the number of people on the planet. So I think it’s a real magnet for young people. It’d be fantastic to show the film in countries that have a growing sensitivity to the environment and sustainability. There are a lot of young people out there who are conscious to those environmental aspects. I think because of the music, they’d be really interested in seeing something that’s so different than the normal run-of-the-mill disaster films… besides, it’s a beautiful film. 

Stepping back from your personal involvement as the creator of Morning of the Earth, how does it hit you now when you watch the film? 

I’m probably more objective about it now. Of course, being the first film you make, it’s a love story! I mean, I’ve made forty films since then, however Morning of the Earth was the first one… and a very special experience for all of us. It was really important at that stage of my life because I wanted to make something unique and special because I loved surfing - I skipped school for it - it became my life’s passion. And photography was the same thing, it went hand in hand with my love for surfing. It was like a dream come true, you know, it was almost in a way destined to happen, I wanted to make something beautiful about surfing and the way it affected me and everyone. So it was in a way very personal, very subjective… I think it affected everyone the same way.  I made the film basically so we could share the beauty and the experiences that we have with others through the purity and essence of what surfing and the ocean gives to us. I still feel that way today. More so. It’s a wonderful gift. 

So you still get that buzz when you go surfing now? 

Oh yeah, totally. I mean, I love to be out in the water with friends surfing, I just love to shine waves off to them. I’ve been so fortunate, and I’m so grateful to have ridden so many beautiful waves that when I go out in the water, to me now the greatest pleasure is to be able to see a set coming and I can look at where the set wave is - it talks to me - and I can shine it off to somebody. And that’s the greatest joy of surfing - to be able to do that is the absolute, to share waves, that’s where I’m at now in my life.

PLB touched base with Justin Misch at his home in California.

How aware of Morning of the Earth were you before this project?

I was 18 and in film school researching underground filmmakers when I first came across Albe’s body of work, including Morning of the Earth. I immediately gravitated towards it. Watching Albe’s films was an inspiration for me as a young filmmaker because here’s someone who successfully built a career out of making movies about the things that he loved. Albe’s work is a true expression of his inner self. It was a breath of fresh air and a contrast to the mainstream opportunities of living in Los Angeles. I threw my hat in the ring for a summer internship but one way or another nothing came of it. It’s interesting how these things can sometimes take a decade or more to come to fruition.

So how did you come on board?

I was in Australia in 2018 with my partner Wyatt Daily, doing research for our first documentary film, Spoons: A Santa Barbara Story, which chronicled the history of surfing in Santa Barbara. A big part of that history was the friendship and information exchange between Renny Yater and George Greenough. Albe spent a year with George in Santa Barbara filming Crystal Voyager after he made Morning of the Earth and was kind enough to share some 16mm material that helped us paint a more complete picture of George’s genius as an innovator. After we digitized the reels, we made an effort to hand deliver them back to Albe on our trip. We met at a coffee shop in Crescent Head and after a couple of minutes it was clear that we made a new friend. An hour later we were scoring perfect waves at a secluded point break up the road. The rain came on and we popped into the van for some snacks and had to ask, why was it so hard to access Morning of the Earth? At the time, the only way to watch it was to order a DVD from Albe directly, which took a few weeks to get to your doorstep. Why wasn’t it available for the modern audiences and online streaming? Albe just giggled and said “Well, mate, because you haven’t done the work yet!” We shook hands on the spot, and that was the beginning of what would become a beautiful relationship.

The remastering process you undertook sounds like quite an ordeal over a long time. What was it like for you, both from a technical point of view and as a personal endeavour?

It was definitely a tall mountain to climb — 3 years of frame-by-frame retouching and thousands of hours of labor. But we got super lucky because the original 16mm “A.B.” rolls, the film that actually ran through the camera, were stored with great love and care at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. We knew that we had something special on our hands, and the more we kept chipping away and thinking about the upcoming 50th Year Anniversary, the more we doubled down on our efforts and avoided compromise.

We wanted to achieve a museum-grade restoration, and the end product to mimic, if not exceed, the quality of the first virgin print ever struck. After digitizing the film to 4K resolution, we proceeded with a meticulous digital restoration process on 150,000 frames, seven times over, including a color grade, stabilization, de-flicker, splice clean up, scratch removal and dust busting, all while staying true to the director’s original vision and creative intent and the integrity of the original 16mm source format. For our company, Origins Archival, which specializes in motion picture film digitization and restoration here in LA, it was a dream come true. An incredible opportunity to showcase what’s possible, and an incredible opportunity to give something back to surfing which has done so much for us all personally.

Albe believes Morning of the Earth has an environmental message that is more urgent now than ever before. Do you think the film will resonate for an audience today?

Absolutely. Half a century later, it’s become clear that Morning of the Earth transcends time. There’s no cars, phones, telephone poles, or big buildings. It’s timeless. And it’s timely. If you look around you and the world, we could all use a little bit of Morning of the Earth in our lives, hey?

 The full story is in Issue 110

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