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July 13 – August 4, 2017

The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun:
Psychedelic Surf Films, 1966 - 1979

“You might be in there for only a few seconds—in real time—but in your head it goes on for hours, it is an experience that’s hard to describe, riding inside of a big, grinding wave. Often you’re riding so deep inside the tube, you don’t make it out. You take a terrible wipe out. What matters is when you’re in there, it’s the time interval when you’re inside the wave. Time enters space, a zone of its own. The only reality is what’s happening right then.” – George Greenough

For many, the surf film genre began with wholesome depictions of beach parties, beach blanket bingo, and surfing à la Frankie Valli, Gidget, or Jan & Dean in the late 1950s. The best-known Sixties surf documentaries are those by filmmaker Bruce Brown, particularly his magnum opus, The Endless Summer, which chronicled a worldwide adventure by two west coast surfers in search of the perfect wave. Yet the world of surf films is wild and dense—stretching all the way across the Pacific.

Generated in the wake of the countercultural, antiwar, free-loving Sixties—and its subsequent swells of disillusion—an environmentally conscious back-to-the-land movement evolved. However, those longing to get away from the cities and live a more natural, do-it-yourself lifestyle were not all retreating to the country. Surfing as a sport and lifestyle spread throughout coastal communities around the beaches of Hawaii, California and Australia. By the late 1960s, surf films like Albert Falzon’s Morning of the Earth and Crystal Voyager were documenting this phenomenon in an extraordinary way. The films’ cameraman–surfer and filmmaker George Greenough–was responsible for both the invention of the modern surfboard fin and the first shots taken from inside the waves courtesy his infamous custom kneeboard. Greenough’s own film work, including The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun,beautifully captured the new shortboard revolution, wherein surfers built their own lighter, faster, custom boards that provided great mobility and changed surfing forever.

Many of the films in this program feature stunning psych-rock soundtracks, such as G. Wayne Thomas’ brilliant scores for both Morning of the Earth and Crystal Voyager, which also include music by Pink Floyd. Pacific Vibrations, John Severson’s classic, has been called “Woodstock on a wave” for its jam-packed soundtrack of famous 60s bands.

At the heart of all of the films in this program is an underlying message about the sanctity of nature, a DIY spirit and the desire to create a world of one's own. The renewed interest in early surf culture perhaps stems from a resistance to the commercialization, corporate sponsorship and rampant consumerism in both surfing and society as running contrary to the sport’s humble beginnings.

We are thrilled to present these rarely seen films at the Harvard Film Archive, where we will kick off the program with an outdoor screening and party on the Sert balcony, complete with a live instrumental surf band. – Jeremy Rossen

Special thanks: Steph Carter and Sean Bridgeman—the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Albert Fazon, George Greenough, Scott Welsh, David Elfick and Harold “Wardie” Ward.

Preceded by Sert Gallery reception and performance by Plutonians at 7pm
Thursday July 13 at 9pm

Crystal Voyager

Directed by David Elfick
Australia 1973, 35mm, color, 78 min

Print courtesy the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.







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Friday July 14 at 9:30pm

Morning of the Earth

Directed by Albert Falzon
Australia 1972, 16mm, color, 79 min

Print courtesy the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.







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Saturday July 22 at 9pm


The Innermost Limits of Pure Fun

Directed by George Greenough
Australia 1968, digital video (orig. 16mm), color, 92 min

Print courtesy filmmaker.







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Saturday July 29 at 9pm

The Endless Summer

Directed by Bruce Brown
US 1966, 35mm, color, 95 min

Print courtesy University of North Carolina School of the Arts.







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The screening of Pacific Vibrations has been cancelled; Dalmas will show instead.
Friday August 4 at 9:30pm


Directed by Bert Deling. With With Peter Whittle, Peter Cummins and Max Gillies
Australia 1973, digital video, color, 103 min

Initially about a former cop attempting to track down anarchistic acid dealer "Plastic Man." Rollowing a lead, his trip takes a psychedlic turn upon his arrival at a seaside commune. The fictional framework of crime melodrama dissolves, and the camera reverses its gaze. The story transforms into a documentary about the crew, the communal tribe, and the shared experience of drug use and making a film.

Preceded by


Directed by Paul Winkler
Australia 1979, 16mm, color, 15 min

Taking its title from the very popular Sydney beach, Bondi was made by Australia’s foremost independent filmmaker Paul Winkler, who used surreal in-camera matting to divide images of the beach, water, sky and sand into alternating horizontal bands.





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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700