From Lawrencetown Beach in eastern Canada, Bondi Beach in Australia, to Senegal and South Africa, surfing is a worldwide sport. While more commonly populated by shaggy young men, women are taking charge and winning on the waves. Marginalized women are also taking their place in the surf with the Black Girls Surf Project, where young black women find the freedom to be who they are from Africa to America. In Bangladesh, young girls have also been lured by the surf and sand in Bangla Surf Girls.
Directed by Elizabeth D. Costa and written and produced by Lalita Krishna, we meet Suma, Shobe and Ayesha, three young girls who live in Cox’s Bazar, a fishing town in Bangladesh with a long beachfront perfect for catching waves. They have all fallen in love with the water and surfing, and are part of a surf club, Bangladesh Surf Girls & Boys Club, run by Rashed, the warm “big brother” who watches over the kids as if they were his own. He instills a moral code of good sportsmanship, dedication and following your dreams. Unfortunately for the girls, that proves to be difficult. With poverty, family obligations and respectability coming into play, escaping their tourist hometown to travel the world becomes harder to imagine.
With gorgeous cinematography and candid conversations, Bangla Surf Girls melts your heart with the passion these girls feel for the sport. They deal with following your dreams and added stigma of being a girl in traditional Bangladeshi society but in a still-developing country, the luxury of a dream can be just as damaging as living without hope. Bringing shame to the family weighs heavily on these girls who break tradition, risking beatings and being shunned for the love of surfing. The reality of juggling responsibilities makes them seem far more mature and world-weary than their teen years, with marriage at an early age or going to work to put food on the table a constant cloud over them. Sobering moments of an angry, overbearing father or an ailing mother and tough decisions that have to be made when it comes to surfing competitions, travelling and surviving are very real, but we also get scenes of elated children remembering what it’s like to play and have fun. It’s this image that we hope conquers all, for at least in the midst of a troubling world, they are daughters of the sea for a moment.
See Bangla Surf Girls at Hot Docs streaming in Canada from April 29.