'Morning of the Earth' Turns Fifty Today
Fifty years ago today, Albert Falzon premiered what would become one of the greatest surf films of all time: Morning of the Earth.
The film premiered on February 25th, 1972 at the Manly Silver Screen Theatre in Sydney and much to everyone’s surprise became an instant hit at the box office with sold-out shows for weeks to come. The story was inspiring, visuals stunning, and the editing cutting edge; but, a big contribution to the film’s success was G. Wayne Thomas’ legendary soundtrack, which became the first Australian soundtrack to sell over a million copies and go Gold. The film’s counter-culture approach and its country-soul soundtrack resonated deeply with Australia’s youth culture and solidified it into Australian history as a national treasure.
Above all, Morning of the Earth was a labour of love for Falzon: “I just wanted to make a beautiful film about surfing, the planet and the ocean.”
Falzon frequented the North Coast of New South Wales with his friends as a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Sydney’s concrete jungle. He would pack his car with camera gear, surfboards and rolls of 16mm film and road trip north to capture the beauty and serenity that those journeys and destinations had to offer. But the film’s locations reached much farther than Australia’s North Coast. Morning of the Earth was the first film to capture surfing in Bali, and its two surfers, Stephen Cooney and Rusty Miller, became the first to ever surf the now world-famous Uluwatu. Falzon also captured the powerful surf of Hawaii’s North Shore during the winter of 1970/71, which contributes a presence of energy to the film that is unparalleled in both beauty and power.
The film stars some of the world’s best surfers, including champions Nat Young, Terry Fitzgerald, Michael Peterson, and Gerry Lopez. But the film goes far beyond personalities. In the director’s own words:
“Morning of the Earth has stood the test of time and perhaps is more important today in view of the increased number of people on the planet and the demands they are having on its resources and ecosystems. We need more than ever to be reminded of this fragile system we have inherited and to a certain extent Morning of the Earth is a reminder that we are all truly responsible for our decisions and actions. It is important that we individually and collectively embody those qualities that will ensure that we live a sustainable life, not one based on overproduction and overconsumption but one based on sensitivity to all life and on all levels on this Earth. Morning of the Earth reflects in a simple way how we can endure and sustain and enjoy our life here and leave a small footprint and a better world in our passing.”
To honour the film’s 50-year history and preserve its legacy, Morning of the Earth recently underwent a three-year remastering effort at Origins Archival in Los Angeles, California. The film’s original 16mm AB rolls (the film that actually ran through Falzon’s camera) were stored with great love and care at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia under the 2005 Kodak/Atlab project, which selected 75 of Australia’s most culturally and socially significant films. Origins Archival knew they had something special on their hands, and the more they approached the upcoming 50th Year Anniversary, the more they doubled down on their efforts, avoiding compromise at every turn. The goal was to achieve a museum-grade restoration, and the end product to mimic, if not exceed, the quality of the first virgin print ever struck. After digitizing the film to 4K resolution, Origins Archival proceeded with a meticulous frame-by-frame restoration process on 150,000 frames, seven times over, including a color grade, stabilization, de-flicker, splice clean up, scratch removal and dust busting, all while staying true to the director’s original vision and creative intent and the integrity of the original 16mm source format.
Complementing the film’s 50th Year Anniversary is a multi-stop theatrical tour presented by Tracks Magazine. Falzon, together with partner and producer of Morning of the Earth, David Elfick, and long-time collaborator John Witzig, co-founded Tracks Magazine in 1970. The tour kicks off February 25th, 2022 at the historical Astor Theater in Melbourne, Australia with additional screenings here:
- Astor Theater, Melbourne Friday 25th February
- Hayden Orpheum, Cremorne Wednesday 9th March
- The Ritz, Randwick Thursday 10th March
- The Byron Theater, Byron Bay Thursday 10th March
- The J Theater, Noosa Friday 11th March
- The Ritz, Randwick Thursday 24th March
- Hayden Orpheum, Cremorne Friday 25th March
A 256-page 50th Year Anniversary coffee table book, printed at Grafiche Milani in Milan, Italy, is also available. The book was published in two editions, including a Standard Edition, and a Gold Collector’s Edition (of 250), with gold foil stamping, gilded edges, signed and numbered by Falzon, and includes a fine-art A4 print of “The Cutback”, also signed by Falzon.
To further complement the 50th Year Anniversary release, Warner Music Australia re-issued a limited release of Morning of the Earth’s soundtrack on 12” vinyl.
Falzon, 77 years young, lives and breathes the Morning of the Earth lifestyle, surfing almost everyday, and also spends his time reading about Eastern philosophy, tending to his land, and caring for the kangaroos and wallabies through his animal sanctuary and rehabilitation program.