One of the most powerful films that I have seen in a long time is coming to selected cinemas in Yorkshire. That power comes from several directions: the beautiful but potentially lethal power and majesty of the sea, but also the power within individuals to overcome their demons and their past. Cinematographically it is stunning and deserves to be seen on a very large screen.
BIG vs SMALL
BIG vs SMALL is a modern-day fairytale that takes viewers from monster waves in Portugal to the dark stillness of a far-north, frozen Finnish lake. It tells the story of Joana Andrade, an elite big-wave champion surfer nicknamed the ‘tiny fighter’. When filmmaker Minna Dufton started her documentary about Joana, who rides the powerhouse waves at Nazaré, Portugal (home of the 100ft world record wave surfed by Garrett McNamara), little did she know the athlete harboured a deep secret.
By way of explaining the safety equipment big-wave surfers use, Joana shared her deep fear of drowning, something many big wave surfers share. In that one extraordinary moment, a remarkable cinematic serendipity would unfold and bring together the tiny Portuguese surfer with Finnish world champion free diver, Johanna Nordblad for the most unusual of training sessions.
Surfing has saved me from the dark side of the night
The film explores how Joana uses the sport as therapy to recover from a devastating childhood experience and her resulting battle with substance abuse. Filmmaker Minna Dufton explained what happened:
“I started out making a film about how a tiny woman conquers her biggest fears surfing the world’s biggest wave. In the end, I ended up making a film about liberation from a traumatic experience.
In the film, the sea becomes a place of healing. As Joanna says, “because my head is full of noise, this is where I feel peace”.
BIG vs SMALL was produced by Dufton’s company Raggari Films, and is distributed internationally by Escapade Media. It has been brought to the UK audience by Tull Stories, which is led by UK cinema consultant Jonny Tull, with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery.
Tull commented: “This important film not only shows the physical strength it takes to be an elite athlete, but the mental strength it takes to overcome such fear. I wanted to bring BIG vs SMALL to the UK because I think it can teach us all something about overcoming – whether that’s fear, trauma or other barriers.”
The film can be seen at Ilkley Cinema on 6 and 21 November and at the Pictureville Cinema, National Science and Media Museum Bradford on 18 November. If you have the chance to see it, do; you won’t be disappointed.
Content warning: this film references sexual abuse, addiction and substance abuse.