Standing in Freezing Water

When it comes to water, kids seem to know no cold. They'll splash happily in a freezing puddle, lake or ocean while their parents look on, shivering.

Youth and parents alike will enjoy the 2017 Water Docs Film Festival Joy of Water matinee screening on Saturday, April 1 (3 to 5:30 pm) at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto. The action for the three quite different documentaries takes place in either frigid northern Atlantic seas or teeth-chattering mountain streams.

Surfing Cold Hawaii

The lead feature is a Danish film, Peter Alsted's Standing on Water. This documentary is a parable about facing fears and following passion. It tells the story of Casper Steinfath, who, despite his dread of water, becomes one of the best stand-up paddle surfers in the world. The film demonstrates how far the love of sport can take you in life, even if you have grown up in a small, isolated fishing village in northern Denmark, where, as Steinfarth's mother points out, “People didn’t play in the water. . .  because you had this fear that something all of a sudden would pull you down.”

Looking at the grey ocean waves and seeing Steinfath scramble through snow banks with his board, one might be tempted to write off his pursuit as madness. But the young man's passion for this sport and lifestyle win us over. 

Strong family bonds, camaraderie and the birth of a Danish surf community in what today is known as ‘Cold Hawaii’ set the stage for this high-energy portrait of a life lived for the ever-changing ocean – "The times that shape a life." 

Now at 21 years of age, Casper Steinfath has become the only Danish professional stand up paddle surfer, a two-time ISA SUP world champion, and a professional surfing nomad, travelling nine months of the year for his passion and calling.

A Traditional Fish Tale

Set in the coldest waters surrounding Newfoundland’s ruggedly breathtaking Fogo Island, Justin Simms’ short film Hand.Line.Cod. follows a group of “people of the fish”— traditional fishers who catch northern cod by hand, hook and line, one fish at a time. Their passion and livelihoods are intimately connected to the water. Their secret mission? To drive up the price of fish, which is the exact opposite of what’s been going on for the last 50 years, since the introduction of industrial fishing practices.

After a 20-year moratorium on North Atlantic cod, the stocks are beginning to return. Now, using proven techniques from centuries past, these fishers are leading a new revolution in sustainability, taking their premium product directly to the commercial market for the first time. Hand-lined cod fillets have made their debut in Toronto’s finest restaurants, where the city’s top chefs clamour for such premium fish.

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Simms leads viewers deep inside the world of the brave fishers returning to past methods that hold tremendous potential for the future. Viewers are invited to travel with the fishers, starting in the early morning hours, and spend time on the ocean, witnessing the intricacies of a 500-year-old tradition that’s making a comeback.

An Epic Journey Through Mountain  Waters

Snowglobe is a French parable that takes the viewer on an epic journey through mountain waters. One man travels back to the water source for a child’s dropped toy – wading through cold currents and flying among snowy peaks – to awaken the conscience of humanity, so we can all perceive the fragility of our precious mountain water resource.

The film opens with two mythical-type characters playing a board game underwater, when they are interrupted by a child who drops a snow globe into their midst, setting one of them on his quest. Along the way we meet several memorable allegorical figures, including the Yachtsman (high-consuming cultural elite), the Trail Runner (embodying the humility of the mountain people) and the Canoeist (the true osmosis of man and water).

Buy tickets for the three films here.