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DOC NYC Opening Night Film Review – ‘Maya and the Wave’ Spotlights an Ambitious and Accomplished Surfer

All sports have their ardent fans, and one of the most intense and impressive arenas is that of surfing. What many do as a relaxing activity on the beach is something entirely different for the professional athletes who take on monumental waves and welcome the presence of nearby storms that might create ideal conditions for the ultimate challenge. Maya and the Wave follows one particularly noteworthy talent, Maya Gabeira, as she struggles to make a name for herself in a sport that doesn’t seem interested or invested in her success.

This film is a straightforward and open look at Gabeira’s beginnings in the surfing community and the way in which most didn’t expect much of her and anticipated she would fail. Getting knocked unconscious during one daring surf results in most casting her as an inexperienced and foolish wannabe who should never have attempted to better her skills in the first place. Through conversations with Gabeira, her family, and the people who first saw her enter the industry and now see how far she’s come, Maya and the Wave paints a portrait of someone who knows what she loves and remains determined to be taken seriously.

Among Gabeira’s main goals throughout the film is the establishment of a new Guinness World Record category that will celebrate the accomplishments of female surfers. The way in which even those who claim to now support Gabeira speak about her indicates an ingrained sexism within the sport, one that believes women cannot do as well as men. But Gabeira is intent on constant improvement, and, like many who are told they can’t do something, works harder to ensure that she can in part to prove the naysayers wrong.

Maya and the Wave

There are two modes to this documentary: intimate conversations with Gabeira and those closest to her, and footage of her taking on waves. The former is enlightening and helps to show how Gabeira approaches the sport and what factors played into her getting involved in the first place, as well as her ability to continue to train. The latter is exhilarating, and it’s easy to choose from a number of scenes as the representative for the most exciting and awe-inspiring shot of Gabeira going up against a wall of water that to her represents the ultimate thrill and signal of success.

This film comes not as Gabeira is looking back at her career but rather at the height of it, having recently broken a record that she herself had previously set for the largest wave surfed by a female. As the thirty-five-year-old Brazilian superstar continues to grow in her career, she’s sure to encounter additional setbacks and achieve even more spectacular aims, and this documentary is a worthwhile snapshot of where she is now as compared with where she started. It represents a humble recognition of roots and a way to stay grounded that for a celebrity should remain key given the often toxic nature of fame.

Getting to watch and hear from Gabeira as she endures challenges and prepares for the next big opportunity provides a window into her mental state, which isn’t ruled by fearlessness but rather a knowledge that the fear does exist, and she can conquer it by taking on that which scares her. It’s a refreshing perspective which many likely wouldn’t assign to someone of her status, and it helps to make her feel more human and relatable. While most audience members almost certainly wouldn’t be confident riding a wave that could pummel and seemingly obliterate them at any moment, Gabeira becomes an accessible figure through this biography, able to tell her own story and honor what she’s done and continues to do for an invigorating sport.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Maya and the Wave premieres as the DOC NYC Opening Night Film on Wednesday, November 9th.

Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzerhttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW, and is a contributing writer for The Film Experience, Awards Radar, and AwardsWatch.


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