Review: Outdated Children
A film by Mick Waters / Little House Productions
1hour 2 minutes.
Available on Vimeo for rent or purchase via littlehouseproductions.com.au
Signed DVDs also available.
Early-ish in 2013 Mick Waters and wife Sue hitched the Viscount pop top to the Landcruiser and embarked on an open-ended road trip, to show kids Ruby, Skye and Sunny parts of Oz they’d spent time in twenty years before, and to discover new places together. A filmmaker by trade, Mick packed his tools aboard with a view to posterity, and jumping on the odd commission along the way.
Like any good roady, the Waters’ odyssey took many twists and turns, and one of the outcomes, six-odd years later, is ‘Outdated Children’, not so much a document of the family’s adventure as a series of vignettes about surfers they met – or got to know better – along the way.
To put a bit of context around the title, before we dive in and nitpick this admirable film, the term comes from a Dr Seuss quote ‘Adults are just outdated children’ – and the idea, as articulated by laconic narrator Wayne Lynch, is just to keep things simple, natural, joyful. Be childlike but not childish. And this theme hums along almost imperceptibly in the background.
Righto, so let’s (metaphorically) press play and fast forward at the same time for a zoom through the fillum and see what we get.
Glen ‘Case’ Casey provides the perfect opening act. Case is a lovely and unique fella – an Otway larrikin with a shrewd mind and an expansive forehand carve. He also more than likely facilitated many of the introductions in this film. Case is one of Oz surfing’s great connectors.
Rasta then pops up to introduce Addy Jones. Addy’s a trip: a recycling / creative / repurposing / genius / wizard / hermit with an extraordinary beard matted into a rope that’d tether an ocean liner to a dock. Great footage of Addy shaping, gardening, surfing a windswept lil’ right on his lonesome; there’s extraordinary landscapes, pot bellied heaters aflame in slo-mo, timber wax combs branded by candlelight, a baby wombat being tended – it’s all almost unbearably folksy but there’s no denying the force of a remarkable good soul.
And here’s Addy talking to camera, resplendent in Patagonia tee shirt and cap and… hey, hang on: Lynchy? Case? Rasta? Now this decked-out bloke (who’s as likely to buy his gear at a surf shop as I am to ride a SUP?) … Like… is this a Patagonia film or what? There’s no ‘Patagonia Presents’ or anything, no branding as such, but so far it’s been an all-star Patagonia cabal, and the tees and caps and puffer jackets and fleecies will continue to adorn most of Mick’s subjects…
So I call Mick and ask him what the deal is, and find out that, well, the big P may not have tipped much in the way of bucks in to the project but they were supportive in other meaningful ways and (my opinion, not Mick’s) probably come close to earning the currency Mick’s creation gives them. I would say with the greatest respect to Patagonia, who are ace, however, that they might still owe Mick a favour or three.
Anyway, we’re hunkered down in Tassie now, for the mighty South West Marine Debris Cleanup – a fine, hardcore volunteer effort started by Matt Dell and Dave Wyatt, with Dusto Hollick providing the surfing and verbiage, which connects to Marti Paradisis and Shippies, which connects to Sandy Ryan, a hardcore walker-inner to Shippies, which leads to Mick Fanning having a very good dig, which leads to filmmaker Waters himself and a bit of selfy stick action lugging 30 kilos of camera gear in on the two hour hike, which connects with more Shippies Glory. It’s a fairly stunning and intense ten minutes or so, and a credit to Mick’s thoroughness around context (how deftly he uses various voiceovers to place his subjects); his skills as a swimming filmer and his excellent music choice (songs start off sounding like Jack Johnson’s F-Stop blues but thankfully take interesting turns and textures).
One of the few small criticisms that can be levelled at this section, and indeed this film, is that sometimes Mick’s commitment to context, storytelling and inclusivity results in the odd jarring moment or inclusion. But it’s refreshing and rare for a filmmaker to opt for substance over style.
Now we meet the shy, legendary and mythical Camel (via sick archival footage from G'Land). Camel’s another great Aussie enigma, and it’s here we should note: you don’t just bowl up in the desert and say, “G’day Camel, wanna be in me film, mate?” No, you have to go surfing together several times, establish rapport and trust and a foundation of friendship. These things take time, and it’s another huge tip of the hat to Mick for earning the candour of his subjects (all while lugging caravan and wrangling kids lest we forget). For all I’d heard about Camel over the years, this is the first time I’ve gotten a real good look at his surfing (in both lefts and rights of consequence) and a peek into his character. Many fine quotes are in this film, but Camel’s philosophy perhaps holds truest of all “Fuck that, surfing around where there’s heaps of people… that’s just like madness”.
From Camel to Heath Joske, who lives the values of this film to a tee: Epic parents one side, lil bubba on the other; no-bullshit DIY work ethic; creativity; open-mindedness; simple pleasures; grow your own; build your own, all that stuff. And a bullshit torqued out rail drive in the classic Trent Munro / Joe Engel mould.
Cue uptempo blues and utopian desert barrels. (No wonder Heath turned into a campaigning beast when the Bight became a fight.) More dolphins (you can never really get too much of those blowhole breathing buggers can you?), and a mellow comedown to the credits – footage of The Waters’ family shack being built mixed with Mick’s kids taking turns in the shorey – it’s gorgeous and genuinely affecting, to the point that when Mick Fanning pops up as the ‘last word’, it feels a bit off-key among the cast of classic off-grid archetypes.
No disrespect to MF, who’s as genuine as they come, but Outdated Children stands more than strong without a marquee figure. It’s a ripper film made with heart and skill by one of Australia’s best current surf-filmmakers.
Top five for sure.
// GRA MURDOCH