Being constantly pummelled by twenty-foot-high waves which crash with the force of a roided-up Subaru is not exactly everyone’s idea of a tranquil getaway. This is the backdrop for the award-winning Sea Gypsies: The Far Side Of The World, wherein we bear witness to the beyond bat-shit crazy voyage of a group of seamen who delve to the bottom of the Earth to places unseen by man with neither agenda nor purpose. The reason: adventure is out there.
Over the course of 8000 miles, we tag along with Captain Clemens Gabriel Oestreich and his boisterous crew (one of which is aptly named David Bowie – no relation) of the mighty 36-meter-long vessel, Infinity. According to the official website [www.seagypsiesmovie.com] the Infinity is built from metal reinforced concreate and is believed to be the largest ferrocement yacht ever constructed. In other words, if given the same odds as the Titanic, Jack and Rose hearts’ would’ve enjoyed a long, resentful life together.
Starting off from New Zealand, the eight sailors set their course across the longest stretch of ocean on the planet, manoeuvring through unforgiving ice fields, rocks, cheeky sea lions and a brief encounter with oceanic activists the Sea Shepherds, who’re mid-pursuit of a Japanese whaling ship; all to reach their destination of Patagonia.
Documenting this extraordinary crossing is filmmaker Nico Edwards, who expresses a curious charm as he narrates throughout. Coming off as an Ishmael type from Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick, as an audience, we digest his personal experience onboard quite easily and relate to a lifestyle that most of us are unfamiliar with – even down to the chronic sea sickness that plagues his trip (those of a weakened stomach may want to sit this one out).
True to its title, each sailor has their own affinity with the sea, whose broad range of personalities are all connected for this one single purpose of rambling through the world. Being somewhat more pro-active than your average ski-bum type, all hands are on deck as they all pull their weight for the greater good of the voyage. Everyone has a job to do and there’s little room for argument. On that note, it’s refreshing to see this rig as a well-oiled machine, rather than an egocentric battleground the History channel and other reality TV trash would lead you to believe.
Interviews with the crew are plotted across the film in a well-structured format. Enough to keep the drive going at a smooth pace, but neatly timed as to take a breather from the blood, sweat and salty tears. As we familiarise ourselves with the Infinity, we develop a sense of attachment to her crew. However, we’re taught that the true spirit of adventure can only be felt when everything goes completely arse over elbow. At times, we’re certainly experiencing the very worst of what can happen under such nerve-shredding pressure, but oddly enough, we begin to welcome in these perils. As the Infinity wrestles against hurricane conditions of biblical proportions in the harshest environment on Earth, a sense of dread is overpowered by exhilaration as we embrace the worst. These are the moments this crew of nomads live for. Given the fact that this floating bunker isn’t even designed to sail through icy conditions, the stakes are raised that much higher.
Despite the liberal use of still framed quotes that do come across as somewhat pretentious, the film is nicely paced. For a documentary such as this, the adventure and the people experiencing it need to take centre stage, which the film faithfully upholds.
The humility of this undertaking is certainly one of the biggest charms this film exudes. As with all adventures, the journey is the destination as we immerse ourselves deeper into what life at sea means in the twenty-first century. Touching upon key environmental issues and the effect that over-fishing has on our planet is brought down to a relatable level, as the film showcases this quite poignantly.
Visually, Sea Gypsies does not waste on the beauty and splendour of this world that we take for granted. From the congested crowds of adorable Antarctic penguins, to the narrow water ways of southern Chile’s fjords, the colours of the Earth bloom, especially in the almighty glory of HD. Footage may not rival the unequalled photography of the BBC, but given the fact that Edwards is a self-taught film maker, it makes it that much more impressive.
Overall, the stellar qualities of this documentary heavily outweigh the negatives. Simply getting up and leaving the world behind is something that we all dream of from time to time. Seeing it in action gives the escapism a realistic foundation to work off. Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of The World is a fascinating and enthralling watch that will have you earning for adventure; or chucking up from all that wobbling.
Available on iTunes 25th July and DVD 8th August