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Filmmaker Takes Teens on Spiritual Journey

26 Feb, 2011 By: Angelique Flores

Walking on Water

There’s a saying in the surf world that it’s hard to be an atheist in the impact zone, says former pro-surfer and filmmaker Bryan S. Jennings.

Through a number of documentaries produced through his organization, Walking on Water, he highlights surfers and their Christian faith. His latest film of the same name as the organization, Walking on Water, documents a trip he took with two young surfers around the world.

The film streets on DVD ($14.94) March 1 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Affirm Films.

As a teen, Jennings went on a life-changing surf trip to Hawaii with older surfer Peter King. Now an adult, Jennings wanted to do the same for two other young surfers and make the experience into a film.

“My favorite movies have been Stand by Me, The Sandlot, coming-of-age stories,” Jennings said. “Adults can be boring.

I want to see the world through these two kids’ eyes and give two kids an education outside the classroom.”

Jennings chose two strangers, Luke and Tyler, then 12 and 14, respectively, and took them to Hawaii, Peru, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa and France to catch some of the world’s best waves and deepen not just their love and understanding of surfing but also of God. Along the way, he met up with pro surfers Tom Curren, Al Merrick, C.J. Hobgood, Damien Hobgood, Bethany Hamilton, Garrett McNamara, Noah Snyder, Matt Beacham, Jesse Hines, Cheyne Cottrell and C.T. Taylor — all of whom also are Christians.

“Making this movie was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life and also the most rewarding,” Jennings said.

On his own trip as a teen, Jennings said, the seeds of Christianity were planted and didn’t come to fruition until years later. Jennings wanted to take things further with Tyler and Luke. His trip with them was not only a spiritual and cultural experience, but it also helped prepare them for possible careers in surfing. (Luke is now one of the top 10 surfers in the world under age 18, Jennings said.)

The film shows the group riding some amazing waves, talking about their faith, sharing what they had in the poor towns in Peru and mingling with the local surfers in the towns they visited.

“Hopefully we showed them how to travel, not just go and surf and disrespect the people and the country and the culture,” Jennings said.

Though the Christian message is direct, the film also shows a sense of humor, and some incredible surfing.

“The most powerful thing is when a nonbeliever … [realizes] these guys aren’t weirdos; they’re normal guys, professional surfers,” Jennings said. “They travel the world; they’re not perfect. … You can see guys that are pretty cool and normal, but have a genuine faith that will inspire others.”

Off camera, Jennings said the group started off each day with a Bible study and prayer.

“We would go to church wherever we were and take a day off from shooting,” Jennings said.

The nonprofit group Walking on Water has produced about 10 documentaries, including Noah’s Arc, The Outsiders, Changes and The Heart of a Soul Surfer, and tours the films for screenings all over the world. Jennings already is working on his next two documentaries.

“None of our movies are about surfing,” Jennings said. “They’re about people. We just use surfing as a tool. We’re all about the stories.”

As a result of Jennings’ success from his films, he now mentors other filmmakers doing similar faith-based documentaries, but with wakeboarding, baseball, golf and other sports.

Bonus materials on the DVD include the featurette “The Hamilton Family: A Soul Surfer Journey,” about how faith helped the Hamilton family through Bethany’s widely reported shark attack that took her arm; a “Bethany Hamilton and Friends in Indonesia” featurette, with extended scenes from this portion of the film; and a sneak peek at the upcoming feature Soul Surfer, starring Anna Sophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid and Carrie Underwood. The film is based on Hamilton’s story and debuts theatrically April 8.

Those who purchase the Walking on Water DVD and a variety of other Sony Pictures family and faith titles from select retailers will receive up to $10 in e-Movie Cash good toward a ticket to see Soul Surfer in theaters or up to $5 in Concession Cash. Discs with the promotion will have on-pack stickers. The program runs April 1 through June 30.

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