People in the arts tend to gravitate to the Pacific beach community of Tamarindo in the northwestern Guanacaste province. For the recent film project “Fe de Agua,” this worked to great advantage.
In the early 2000s, Costa Rican Natasha Pachano met Jamaican-born, New Jerseyraised “Fe de Agua” director Alrick Brown while working postproduction at New York University, where Brown was a graduate film student (whose thesis adviser was noted director Spike Lee).
Brown went on to direct and produce seven films, including the acclaimed PBS documentary “Death of Two Sons,” which tells the story of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was shot by New York City police officers in 1999, and Jesse Thyne, a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer who lived with Diallo’s family in Guinea and died less than a year after Diallo was killed.
Pachano returned to Costa Rica in June 2006 and opened Eclipse Productions video production company in Tamarindo. Brown became a frequent visitor, eventually launching an impromptu film shoot featuring local author, surfer and videographer Jonathan Yonkers and Canadian actor and director Paul Belanger. Entitled “Paraíso,” the short piece about sustainable development in Guanacaste came out so well that the gang decided to do it again – this time going longer, with a little more cash, a fleshed-out script, more local actors and a bigger local production crew.
When word got out that Guana Productions was making “Fe de Agua,” San José film production company Dart offered to upgrade the principal camera to a professional Silicon Imaging SI-2K unit, free of charge.
The fruits of Tamarindo were plucked: Local photographer Thornton Cohen became executive producer and chief fundraiser; Jaguart art designer Andrea Spencer joined the art department; former Hollywood grip Gary Ackermann of Ursula’s Restaurant signed on as key grip; photographer Sean Davis learned sound engineering for the project; videographer, photographer and former French film industry pro Toh Gouttenoire hitched camera-assistant gear to his belt; and Federico Pilurzu, one of Costa Rica’s best-known surfers, did a cameo in the surf contest scene.
One afternoon in the village of San José de Pinilla, south of Tamarindo, cars, a truck and gear filled a corner of the soccer field as 50 people – actors and crew – began work. Brown barely got lunch in as he prepped a scene with 9-year-old lead Carlos Daniel Angulo. Angulo and Yonkers, 26, share the role of Mauricio, a Guanacaste child who learns to surf, grows up, turns professional and follows his dreams from Costa Rica to Hawaii.
With a limited budget, Brown found that all roads on “Fe de Agua” rolled from him. Take the script, for example: At the beginning of the project, he asked Yonkers, Pachano and local architect John Osbourne to “write something.”
“Then (photographer) Sergio Pucci became our director of photography and wrote a script based on what everyone had written. Then, I took everyone’s ideas and made it strong. I think we have a pretty decent script,” Brown said.
Brown encouraged everyone to take on more than one role. For example, actor Yonkers was also a production assistant, and casted Angulo as the younger Mauricio by going to his old elementary school in La Garita de Alajuela in the Central Valley.
The first scene shot featured young Mauricio on top of four boxes – supposedly a log – trying to surf while off-camera “kids” tried to toss him off. Brown called for a rehearsal, filming and a repeat. Then he tried a different angle on a real log, with real children. The day wore on. Moviemaking takes a long time.
Two days later, on TamarindoBeach, a group of extras, some wearing Hawaiian clothing, started cheering. Oceanside stood Brown, Pucci and two other crew members working the camera and fighting the wind, filming a key scene with Mauricio’s mother – played by Villarreal local Marjolet Babb – cheering her son on during a Hawaiian surf contest.
“I can make something good with fairly little money,” Brown said. “It doesn’t look like Hawaii (here), but we just did it.”
For all the action, no surf scenes were filmed that day. Although the movie is about a young man who surfs, Brown was quick to point out that the surfing is the least important aspect of the 20-minute film.
“Forget about the surfing; it’s about the emotions and the journey that brings you there,” he said.
On the other hand, the producers want to give back to the real kids of Guanacaste who may want to learn to surf. To this end, 20 percent of the film’s proceeds will go toward a surfing scholarship for local kids.
Pachano said they hope to have the film ready by July or August to screen in Tamarindo. It will also be shown at the Montezuma International Film Festival, scheduled to be held Nov. 12 to 15 in the southern NicoyaPeninsula beach community of Montezuma.
A Web site for the film is under construction at www.fedeagua.com.