Surf's up: Santa Fe film fest will premiere documentary about Sri Lankan woman who rides the waves - Albuquerque Journal

Surf’s up: Santa Fe film fest will premiere documentary about Sri Lankan woman who rides the waves

Sri Lankan surfer Sanu is the subject of the documentary, “We Are Like Waves,” which premieres at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 14. (Courtesy of storiesbyleah)

Jordyn Romero travels the world to create documentary films.

Yet when she’s back in her hometown of Santa Fe, she relishes the time.

The filmmaker is presenting her short film “We Are Like Waves” at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, which runs Wednesday, Oct. 13 through Sunday, Oct. 17.

The Santa Fe native’s film will screen at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14, at the Jean Cocteau Cinema.

“It’s my second appearance at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival,” Romero says. “I’m really excited, because I get to screen the film in front of my family at the festival. It will be fun to share this story that has taken over my life.”

“We Are Like Waves” takes place on the south coast of Sri Lanka, where surfing is king. Yet only foreigners and local men dominate the lineups, because surfing is not seen as a sport for girls.

Santa Fe native and director Jordyn Romero. (Courtesy of storiesbyleah)

Romero says this is a result of cultural and societal expectations that place women inside the household, particularly in rural areas.

“Young girls are expected to follow certain standards: be kind, look nice, and smile,” Romero says. “Attend school, study, work. Get married, and start a family. Be a housewife, cook, and clean. Most importantly, stay at home and put family first.”

Romero followed Sanu, who watched her brother surf.

When Sanu turned 18, she began working in the kitchen at a surf camp alongside her brother, who worked as a surf instructor.

Jordyn Romero, left, films on location in Sri Lanka for her short film, “We Are Like Waves.” (Courtesy of storiesbyleah)

At the surf camp, Sanu was often invited by foreigners to try surfing, but her fear of the ocean and going against her community’s expectations made her decline the offers again and again.

One day, Sanu was asked by her boss and mentor, Sophie, to join her at SeaSisters, a weekly swim and surf program established for Sri Lankan girls to help inspire and empower through surfing. Hesitant but curious, Sanu took the risk and has never looked back.

“It’s easy to look at this film as a surfing story,” Romero says. “But I think the story itself can be applied to any hobby. Especially women in the world. They will see what Sanu is doing by going against cultural norms and succeeding. It’s about following your heart and chasing your dreams.”

Romero knows she comes from more privilege than Sanu. But she wanted to tell her story in a way that inspires.

That’s why Romero also enlisted an all-female production crew.

“It was important for us not only to be in front of the lens, but behind the scenes,” she says. “Women are slowly changing the field, where they are being accepted as amazing filmmakers.”

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