Spirit of Akasha - Albe Falzon Interview
We chat with legendary film maker Albe Falzon about his latest film Spirit of Akasha.
It is not everyday you get to catch up with a legendary film maker. Albe Falzon is a man who falls very humbly into that catergory. He is arguably responsible for one of the greatest surf films of all time in Morning of the Earth, the film that first showed Uluwatu in all its glory in 1971 and featured M.P showing everyone who has ever stepped foot on a surfboard how to surf Kirra properly. We caught up with him recently to talk about his latest film, Spirit of Akasha.
First up, I guess it's always nice to hear it from the person who has created the film rather than Google. The name? You have always named your films with really powerful and interesting titles. Where does Spirit Of Akasha come from?
I’ve made a lot of films especially after I jumped out of the surf world for a while. I went walkabout for 10 years. I travelled around the East and up through Tibet and various other parts of the world. I got involved in meditation, different practices and became interested in some Buddhist and Hindu teachings. Through these travels I had heard of the Akasha and it just kind of resonated with me. It wasn’t something I purposely thought about, instead it was just resting in the background and when we were sitting around Andrew’s (Andrew Kidman) place up at Mt. Warning talking about various things like the music and how we were going to put this film together someone said "what are we going to call this?" It just came out, I didn’t even think about it. I just said let’s call it Akasha and Andrew had some really beautiful titles, he was also in that ethereal area as well and he just looked at me and said "that’s great". Then from there within 30 seconds or a minute the Spirit of Akasha came from that. There was no need for an alternative, it was like it fell out of the sky and then everything just grew from there.
You mentioned that it has been an ongoing project, how long did it take to film?
I was thinking about that yesterday. I think that meeting was about a year and a half ago. No one wanted to remake Morning of the Earth, no one wanted to go there. Morning of the Earth said it all. Andrew grew up with Morning of the Earth and to him he kind of lived that lifestyle after seeing it as a grommet. The film resonated so strongly with him that in the end his filmmaking had aspects of Morning of the Earth in it. So when the project came about we said let’s do it as a celebration of Morning of the Earth. Andrew and Chris wanted to look at where surfing was now. Was that essence we captured in Morning of the Earth still in surfing now? So it was an exploratory film in a way and I think Andrew already recongised that in a way and knew the essence still did exist but he wanted to delve deeper into it and see if he could capture and document it.
I like the idea of the spirit that was captured in Morning of the Earth and exploring if it still exists in surfing today. Do you think it still resonates in surfing today?
Surfing’s gone through a lot of phases over the last 20 years. The competitive aspect of surfing came in really strong and just dominated for a long time because of the corporate push in surfing and I think that just overtook peoples' better judgment as to where they were. But the essence of surfing really hasn’t changed that much, we all surf because we love riding waves and there are a lot of changes between then and now but that hasn’t changed. That existed way back then when we went to Bali, it still exists today. I think the spirit is always there, you can’t deny it. Fashions change, designs change, personalities change, but riding a wave doesn’t. The pure essence of riding a wave is never going to change. You go out there and surf because it’s a beautiful thing to do and you love it. That is all that matters at the end of the day. Between then and now all that shit that’s gone up and down who cares.
You can find it, you make a conscious choice to ether paddle out at the Superbank with 400 people and maybe get your head knocked in by someone or you can go down the coast for 3 or 4 hours and surf these pristine breaks where you can’t see a house or person in the middle of summer with only 2 people in the water surfing. I mean c’mon so you can still find it, get it and zero in on it. Bali has changed. When I was up there I was just filming, I really just wanted to capture it all. I think I only paddled out at Legian one day and caught a couple of waves but I never really surfed. I just wanted to capture the beauty of surfing and make a film and share that with people who don’t have the great fortune of getting to the ocean because most people in this world will never see the ocean and we go down and play with it everyday and I’m really grateful for that. I’ve always been grateful for that, from the first moment and that’s the only reason I made the film I wanted to share that experience.
The film is a celebration of Morning of the Earth, which is a great way to put it rather than saying it’s a remake, re-imagination or a sequel. Do you think that will connect with people or do you think people will be hoping for exactly what happened in Morning of the Earth 40 years ago?
I don’t think you're ever going to capture what happened 40 years ago. That’s gone and finished but underneath it there is still something there.
I think Akasha stays pretty close to the core and reflects the feeling of what Morning of the Earth was and still is to a certain extent. You can’t duplicate that on film. Surfing is beautiful and if that’s your mindset when you go out and make the film, then that’s enough. You don’t need to do anything more than that. I think if they go along with expectations that they're going to see a remake of Morning of the Earth then that’s not going to happen. The soundtrack is great, and the link is there and sometimes with the images mixed into the film you can see it but it’s a stand-alone film. It says this is where Morning of the Earth was and this is where we are now.
You touched on the soundtrack. I think its great, whether it’s the cover versions of the Morning of the Earth tracks or the Akasha soundtrack itself it’s all very interesting. What are your thoughts on it?
They're 2 entirely different soundtracks. I think that we were fortunate at the time when we did Morning of the Earth as we were totally in sync with the music at the time. However I think the Akasha soundtrack is great, there’s a real mixture to it that ebbs and flows. It compliments the type of film that Akasha is. As I said they are different soundtracks, but I love the cover versions. I got really excited about those cover tracks as it was great to hear a creative interpretation of music from then and how younger bands interpret that now. It was a real uplift for me. I wish I had that music when I shot the film. You see, when we did Morning of the Earth we didn’t have the music until it was done so it was a bit of a juggle for me as a filmmaker. It would have been nice to have the tracks and cut the film to it rather than the other way around. The good thing about Akasha is that we had the tracks down to cut the film to, which I think makes a big difference. It didn’t seem to matter too much in the end on Morning of the Earth as the images and music just fell into shape.
Now that there is this cover version of the soundtrack I imagine what it would have been like to record Morning of the Earth to it, as if I did it now it would be an entirely different film. Music is so inspirational. So when you have that in your head and visualise it, it makes for a great creative process.
The launch is coming up at the Opera House. You must be excited about having the bands there playing the songs from Akasha and having the Australian public see the film for the first time?
I think it will be a big night. I hope I get there. If its 6ft and pumping you’ll have a hard time getting me out of the ocean, haha.
For me personally I can talk to you about the music but I don’t listen to a lot of music now. If I told you the type of music I listened to you would be going, "what?". I’m just really into silence; I like natural sounds along with Brian Eno. So that’s my choice of music, I guess it’s contemporary. With Akasha I think the music works, I think there is a creative mix of music.
Morning of the Earth has had so much longevity. Do you think Akasha will have the same affect on grom’s now and hold onto the spirit for long time?
Who knows? In today's world we are bombarded with so much material that there’s a short attention span. I think there is longevity in the film; I think it has legs. We are living in a different world today and have so much access to media and films so it’s really difficult to call that one. I hope so as it’s a beautiful film and I think it will inspire people.
For more information about Spirit of Akasha click here.
SPIRIT OF AKASHA SOUNDTRACK, MORNING OF THE EARTH REIMAGINED & MORNING OF THE EARTH COMPLETE ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK REISSUE AVAILABLE FRIDAY 24 JANUARY.