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Legends of Australian surf cinema return to the Opera House

3 July 24

News supplied by Natasha Yuncken - Communications Specialist, Sydney Opera House 

A weekend of films and talks for a celebration of the Opera House's unexpected surfie roots 

Sydney – Wednesday 26 June 2024 – Iconic Australian surf films return to the Opera House this August in a celebration of the nation’s mythological surfing culture and its radical roots. First Wave, which runs from 9 – 11 August is a curated selection of world premieres, remastered era-defining films, contemporary documentaries and special Q&A events. 

From its grand opening in 1973, the Opera House became a mecca for the Australian surf counterculture of the 70s and 80s. In between the operas and orchestras, hordes of young surfers from across the harbour city flocked to the Cinema, now known as the Playhouse, to witness groundbreaking films like Crystal Voyager and Morning of the Earth, cementing an epoch of eco-focused living, boundary-pushing creativity and the pursuit of freedom in a post-war generation.

Sydney Opera House Head of Screen, Stuart Buchanan says: “First Wave shines a light on Australia’s fabled surf legacy with a selection of recently restored psychedelic classics along with offerings from the current tide of Australian surf culture. Rediscovering the history between the Opera House and surf cinema has unearthed incredible memories that echo our guiding principle of being Everyone’s House; a place where cultures and subcultures can be exalted, celebrated and shared. Delving into the technicolour archive of Aussie surf films has been a joyous revelation, and we can't wait to share these films with audiences old and new."

Highlights from the upcoming programming include:

Crystal Voyager (1973) + Q&A with director David Elfick and special guests – First premiering at the Sydney Opera House in 1973, Crystal Voyager returns for the world premiere of its 4K remastered release. Touted as one of the most beautiful surfing films ever made, David Elfick and Alby Flazon’s epic follows surf innovator George Greenough alongside world champion Nat Young as they explore remote waves and the transcendent connections between nature and surfing. The final section, 'Echoes', set to Pink Floyd's music, boasts pioneering POV footage, which played a pivotal role in the progression of cinematography in the sport.
Morning of the Earth (1972)
+ Introduction by director David Elfick  – Alby Falzon and David Elfick’s 1972 magnum opus returns in stunning 4k remastered definition after its first screening at the Opera House in 1973. The seminal surf film that captured the imagination of a generation cemented a legacy of counter-culture living with its technicolour visuals and the legendary soundtrack featuring music from G. Wayne Thomas and Brian Cadd.
Girls Can’t Surf (2023)
 + Q&A with Pauline Menczer – Discover the untold saga of a group of fearless female surfers in the 1980s who defied the odds and forever altered the landscape of surf culture. Directed by Christopher Nelius, the film features icons like Jodie Cooper, Frieda Zamba, Pauline Menczer, Lisa Andersen, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha, Layne Beachley and more.
You Should Have Been Here Yesterday (2023)
+ Q&A with director Jolyon Hoff – A poetic homage to Australia’s early surf culture, this film tells the story of a wild community that took off up the coast and discovered a new way to live. Set to an original salt-infused soundtrack by Headland and with unearthed 16mm footage, the film features Tim Winton, Wayne Lynch, Bob McTavish, Albe Falzon, Evelyn Rich, Maurice Cole and many more.
The Blind Sea (2024)
+ Q&A with Matt Formston and director Daniel Fenech – An inspirational documentary about world champion blind surfer Matt Formston. With insights from Layne Beachley AO, Joel Parkinson and big wave legends Lucas ‘Chumbo’ Chianca and Dylan Longbottom, the film follows Matt around the world as he pushes the limits and attempts his most fearsome and dangerous challenge yet: breaking the world record for a blind surfer and surfing the monster waves of Nazaré.
The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun (1970) + Q&A with star Chris Brock – World premiere of the newly remastered The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun is the cult 1970 directorial debut of George Greenough. Capturing the freedom of ocean living and the first stages of the shortboard revolution, the film follows Greenough and his band of fellow board riders including Chris Brock, Bob McTavish, Ted Spencer and Gary Keyes as they surf across Australia and the USA.

David Elfick, director of Crystal Voyager (1973) says: “Fifty years ago Crystal Voyager opened at the Opera House. It was touch and go. In those days 16mm surf movies were shown in two 40-minute halves. At the interval, I was trying to keep the audience happy while Ably Falzon was speeding across the harbour bridge in his Kombi with the second half of the film. We made it …just. Today the audience will see a digital Crystal Voyager, a 4K fully restored image and hear the Pink Floyd soundtrack for the first time in 5.1 sound."

In addition to First Wave, this August the Playhouse will host screenings of the 2024 Blacktown Short Film Festival along with celebrated films My Neighbour Totoro (1988), a 30th anniversary screening of Chungking Express (1994) and the Sydney premiere of Mogwai - If The Stars Had A Sound (2024). To learn more about these screenings please click HERE.


WHAT: First Wave
WHEN: 9–11 August 2024
WHERE: Playhouse
PRICES: From $30 + $8.95 booking fee
GP ON SALE: 9am, Wednesday 26 June

News supplied by Natasha Yuncken - Communications Specialist, Sydney Opera House 

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