Where did the idea for “Children of the Wind” come from?
After years of visiting Bonaire on windsurfing and diving vacations we were well aware of the extraordinary windsurfing achievements of the Bonaire kids, but the idea to film a documentary about their story occurred when our friend Peter Robertson joined us on a trip to Bonaire in 2009. As well as addicted windsurfer, Pete is one of the busiest camera operators in the feature film business. Based in the UK, Pete’s CV includes the “Bond” and “Harry Potter” franchises, and in the last two years alone: “Unkown” “Hanna” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and “Wrath of the Titans” and last but not least: “Children of the Wind”! It was shortly after Pete’s visit that our producer Robert McCormick and Bonaire windsurfing mentor and leader Elvis Martinus spoke of how amazing it would be to “unleash Pete on Bonaire with a camera crew to shoot the story of the Bonaire kids.” It was decided that I would direct, Pete would be our Director of Photography and main operator, and Robert, who is my father and a longtime actor would be Producer. It took a year of extensive planning, and finding a hole in Pete’s busy schedule, but we finally pulled it off and in May of 2010 we took a crew of five to Bonaire for principle photography. That set in motion location shoots in Florida, Sylt, Germany and Martha’s Vineyard, and back to Bonaire last June for pick-up shots and the PWA competition, and then close to a year of accumulating archival footage and post to get to where we are now.
What is the central theme explored in the film?
Hope. Our protagonists were given nothing in their lives and had nothing. Everything was working against them from their poverty, to the color of their skin, to the lack of opportunities provided them, to the dark temptations that awaited them on the streets and with some of their friends and yet from this they rose to the top of the world in their sport.
How does the style of “Children of the Wind” differ from other windsurfing films?
Windsurfing movies are typically action/travelogue films centered on spectacular action sequences—often involving wave sailors. In “Children of the Wind” windsurfing is the metaphor for the power of sport to affect change, but the story is character driven—not action driven. Having said that, it is important to show the audience exactly what these athletes are capable of, and for those who know nothing about windsurfing, to see what is possible. So we have dazzling action sequences—they are just not the focus of the film.
How long have you been working on “Children of the Wind”?
Two and a half years.
What were some of the biggest challenges of making this film?
The biggest challenge was and is fund raising, but at every crucial stage of the project the stars kept aligning, good things happened, and we were able to pull it off. As with most documentary filmmakers, we very early on we realized we would have to fund the project through donations and sponsorship, and not investors. The brutal reality for documentary filmmakers is that statistically only about 1% of them actually make money so it’s very difficult to come up with a business plan that will entice investors. Our biggest advantage was that we were going into the project with the full support, trust and encouragement of Elvis Martinus and our protagonists. So when we arrived in Bonaire for the principal shooting for example, Elvis had arranged through the community and his partners for accommodation, trucks for our gear, local restaurants that provided meals pro bono, and basically doing everything in his power to reduce our costs. We then held a successful Kickstarter campaign, which when combined with generous contributions from donors, money we were putting in ourselves and a willingness of the core team to work for free for two years—allowed us to make it through!
What were some of the best moments of making this film?
Spending time with, and getting to know, our protagonists. Particularly memorable moments include a birthday dinner in Sylt, Germany for Bjorn Saragoza in which all of the Bonaire boys as well as Sarah Quita Offringa and her brother Quincy attended; a day spent with Patun Saragoza in a remote corner of Bonaire far past where the road ends; going with Elvis at sunrise to fish; standing on a mountain with Tonky as we gazed over Bonaire and listened as Tonky spoke of his island; watching Kiri win the PWA event in Bonaire and being carried to the podium on a throne attached to a windsurfing board constructed by his grandfather Boeboe while the local crowd went ballistic; filming at the Saragoza Kunuku (“Farm”); and perhaps most poignantly, filming Taty’s interview on the beach at sunset in Sylt, Germany—something the three of us who were there with him will never forget as he talked about his childhood with wrenching candor. There were so many more but I will stop here!
What do you think lies in the future for the Bonaire boys?
That of course is the big question and one that we explore near the end of the film. The challenge for anyone who accomplishes stardom at a young age—and particularly with athletes, is dealing with the reality of “what’s next?” I don’t want to give anything away here, but as you will see we confront that question briefly—though head-on, in the film. The problem facing professional windsurfers, regardless of where they are from in the world, or how successful they have been, is the lack of money in the sport, and therefore the lack of a nest egg the athletes can accumulate for their post-competitive career. However, what they have accomplished, the many they have inspired, the lives they have changed, the sport they have changed, none of that goes away. And like Elvis Martinus and Patun Saragoza, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Bonaire boys continue to be beacons of light and mentors for the young kids on Bonaire, continuing to work with the windsurfing businesses on Lac Bay, continuing to work with manufacturers such as Starboard to design new products, and by their infectious personalities to continue to spread hope among the disenfranchised youth of their island and, through our film, the world.