Both films are heavily influenced by their Australian backgrounds, telling stories about regaining control over one’s life to find what really matters. However, the ways in which the subjects approach this task is as different as a fish and a van.
Fish Out of Water
Fish Out of Water tells the incredible story of two men’s journey across 3000 miles (around 5000 km) of the North Atlantic Ocean, in a wooden rowboat, having no previous rowing experience. The story follows Pete Fletcher and Tom Hudson as they prepare and ultimately embark on a journey that their rowing consultant, Simon Chalk, describes as essentially jumping off a cliff. The first act shows their preparation; gathering supplies, taking courses in first aid and other relevant areas, and needing to build their vessel, sourcing parts from all over the world. The second act shows their journey across the waves; battling storms, dealing with spoilt food, navigating with broken equipment, fixing the damaged vessel, experiencing heavy rationing, and even having a brief run-in with the British Navy.
The two men go searching for a new take of life, but along the way they had to face much more than the sea, specifically their inner demons and doubts.
Their story is nothing short of incredible. What these two men have done, with no experience beyond a personal desire and dream, is astounding. Their journey makes for a gripping viewing experience, dragging you into their lives and stories right from the beginning.
Their initial positivity and humour about the situation are contagious and right from that moment you want to follow them. What they experience at times seems almost as if it’s from an old adventure novel; food spoiling after only a few days acts as a type of countdown clock for their journey; the breaking of essential equipment much earlier than expected forces innovation in areas beyond their expertise; and of course, battling mother nature herself, as unforgiving as she is beautiful; the vastness and near void that is the ocean.
Pete and Tom are great characters, relatable and extremely likeable, and you find yourself feeling as if you know them almost personally by the end of the journey.
Director, composer, cinematographer, and editor, Israel Cannan, does an excellent job blending all the different types of footage together to create a coherent final piece. Utilising everything at his disposal, he manages to intertwine a mix of reenactment, home footage, staged shots, interviews, and Pete and Tom’s boat scenes.
Israel’s own background in music and sound is evident throughout. Carefully chosen and incorporated songs and music pieces elevate the emotion of images.
It’s an inspirational story about human strength and perseverance, and about re-evaluating life and knowing who you truly are.
Fish Out of Water is available globally now, on iWonder in Australia/New Zealand/Singapore, download to rent or own via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Video and Vimeo on Demand, and screenings through demand.film.
The Meaning of Vanlife
A ‘day in the life’ documentary, compiling a number of individual stories into a type of collage of the different members of a movement. Vanlife is literally as it sounds, people ditching the idea of living in a single place in favour of a nomad lifestyle. The documentary combines stories from people across Australia and the United States, showing what their life is like and gaining insight into the grand old question of ‘why’.
The Meaning of Vanlife follows the different members as they move to large meet-ups with other like-minded people, as well as showing the highlights and lowlights that the lifestyle brings.
Almost all the people seem to be from similar backgrounds, privileged, or semi-privileged young adults, and mostly white. It does beg the question, is this a legitimate movement or an excuse to vent privileged angst? Multiple times people mention the move away from social constraints and capitalistic or consumeristic trends, as a reason for their longing for an alternative life. It’s hard to not see the irony of their ideologies; a group of people desiring to leave society in favour of nature, still heavily relying on technology and civilisation to maintain their lifestyle aimed at avoiding it.
There is a keyword that the documentary seems to be chasing, and a buzzword in the arts; authenticity – chasing an authentic life, an authentic world, an authentic experience. But the real question left to ponder is whether an authentic life like the one featured in The Meaning of Vanlife is possible? The reliance on certain luxuries seems to suggest that this is a short-term idealistic life. How would you properly fund this life, how would family work, a career? Life has too many restraints to make it viable.
The soundtrack is composed of music sourced from members of the Vanlife community. The optimistic tunes and lyrics often make it feel like an 88-minute advertisement; it makes the life appealing with its beautiful nature shots, themes of reclaiming leisure time, small communities where equality is the core value, no mortgage, little responsibilities….and as one of the participants comments, “You never see a hearse with a trailer behind it”.
The Meaning of Vanlife will be released on April 26 globally. In Australia it will be available exclusive on STAN, and worldwide via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon and Vimeo on Demand, and screenings through demand.film.