The Activating Human Rights Film Festival is providing local surfers a second chance to see the highly acclaimed film ‘Sliding Liberia’ which won the title Best Surf Film at the 2008 Byron Bay Film festival.

‘Sliding Liberia’ follows four young surfers as they travel through the war-torn West African nation of Liberia in search of perfect waves.

Besides finding acclaim at BBFF, ‘Sliding Liberia’ has won awards at several international film festivals including Best Emerging Filmmaker at the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival; Best Action Sports Film at the Vail Film Festival, and Jury Prize at the International Surf Film Festival, as well as numerous audience awards.

Founded by freed American slaves, Liberia experienced a long history of independence and development before collapsing into civil war in 1989.

Fierce fighting engulfed the country as countless armed groups competed for resources and power.

In 2003 the UN deployed the largest peacekeeping force in the world to Liberia, ending the war and bringing hope to what had become the world’s deadliest stretch of coastline.

Still a pariah nation with a dangerous reputation, seasoned travellers and professional surfers Dan Malloy, Chris Del Moro and Crystal Thornburg risk everything to travel to Liberia.

Ever since their friend Nicholai Lidow (a student of political science with a deep attachment to the country) told them about the world-class waves he had found on previous trips, the surfers couldn’t resist the call of adventure.

As the surfers travel through the country in a beat-up taxicab, they quickly realise that Liberia is not a typical surfing destination.

With the recent war written in every aspect of the landscape, the group must face the everyday realities of life in a post-conflict world, where security is never taken for granted.

The travellers rediscover a break which could be the best-kept secret in the surfing world.

However, the search for waves becomes more of a quest for understanding, and the surfers record the stories of Liberians they meet along the journey — people like Alfred, who became Liberia’s first surfer after finding a bodyboard while fleeing from rebels.

Juxtaposing war-torn urban landscapes with images of tropical  paradise, the film explores the tension that exists inside every traveller — a desire to connect with new people and places, and an instinct to insulate oneself from the harsh realities of the surroundings.

Surfer Crystal Thornburg and cinematographer Dave Homcy were in Byron Bay to accept their award in March while filming a new movie called ‘One Track Mind’ by the Malloys. 

Crystal and Dave have spent the last month touring Chile with a number of Byron Bay surfers as part of the ‘El Mar Mi Alma’ Chile Tour organised by Surfers for Cetaceans (S4C) which cumulated in a
peaceful protest at the 2008 IWC meeting in Santiago.

‘Sliding Liberia’ screens with a series of short films as part of the Activating Human Rights Film Festival at 6:10pm on Saturday 5th July at the Byron Community and Cultural Centre. Profits will be donated to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. Tickets are $8 & $10.