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Laramie Movie Scope: Surfwise

The strange odyssey of a surfing family

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 10, 2009 -- This documentary about a famous family of nomadic surfers is fascinating not only because of the certifiable oddball patriarch, but also because of his endlessly creative offspring, one of whom (Jonathan Paskowitz) is a producer of this film. The family of 11, all stuffed into a 24-foot camper, roamed the beaches of America and Mexico for more than 20 years starting in the late 1950s.

The patriarch of this gypsy surfing brood is Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz. A graduate of Stanford and a successful doctor, he was very unhappy living the American Dream. He ditched it for the nomadic lifestyle of a surf bum. After marrying Juliette Emelia Paez in the late 1950's (his third marriage, her first) the two hit the road. At first, they lived in a Studebaker. As their family grew to nine children, the last was born in 1974, they lived in a succession of campers and recreational vehicles, most considered too small for such a large family.

Dorian and his oldest son ruled the family with an iron fist. They lived on a strict diet of grains and organic foods with no sugar or fat (Dorian believed that people should emulate the diet and lifestyles of the great apes). The children did not attend school. The family conducted their own Jewish religious services. The children, now all grown, who were interviewed for the film seemed to like the lifestyle in which grew up. It was, after all, what most people would consider a permanent vacation. The nomadic life of the Paskowitz family did have its drawbacks, however.

When the children grew up and were ready to move on with their lives, Dorian did not want to let them go. There were real battles in the family between the children and between the children and adults. The one thing that most of the children seemed to miss most of all was schooling. While they all seemed to be fairly successful, the lack of schooling hurt their career choices. Some of the children express real pain about their upbringing. Others seem happy with it. At the end of the film, we see a modern day reunion of the 11 family members, plus some of the grandchildren.

The film is filled with footage of surfing (several of the children became champion surfers), including the famed Paskowitz surfing school (the ownership of which caused a family feud). We also see concert footage of the children who became rock stars. The language of the film is laced with obscenities, which may shock some. Dorian talks frankly about sex, using the F-word frequently. He talks proudly about how one of his early sex partners, “taught me how to eat pussy and that changed my life.” Juliette talks frankly about how the family rule for thoroughly cleaning butts (she uses the term assholes in the movie) after each trip to the bathroom was necessary in the cramped quarters of the camper. All in all, an unforgettable family. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2009 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)