Kalani - Gift from Heaven

"Kalani swims in the ocean where the even fish are afraid to," this is how Garrett McNamara describes the protagonist of this documentary, Kalani Lattanzi, a Brazilian bodysurfer born in Hawaii, who bravely faces the biggest waves in the world, only with his body and a pair of fins.

Filmed by Nuno Dias over three years, the documentary contains never-before-seen images of Nazaré and Rio de Janeiro, and documents the largest waves ever ridden in bodysurfing.

We talked to Nuno, who told us why he decided to make a film about Kalani, among other things.
What was the motivation to make a documentary about Kalani?

One of my goals as a filmmaker is to tell stories that I think will inspire other people and this was one I believed in from the beginning. The first filming was done in 2015 when I met Kalani and saw him for the first time doing bodysurfing in Nazaré. I was dazzled.

We were both 21 years old and were in similar stages in our careers, he in bodysurfing and I as a documentary director. The following winter we decided to start working together. We didn't know at the time what the final product would be, but we both felt a good connection. Initially it was only the two of us, but as we were filming in long sessions on Praia do Norte, several people in the field showed great interest in collaborating and helping us with the project.

This was one of the main factors that motivated me, it was no longer just an idea we were talking about, it was really happening and we were no longer alone. We had the opportunity to learn new things, to interview some of the biggest names in the world's big wave surfing scene and to see the enthusiasm and willingness they show, and we got exclusive footage of the biggest waves ever surfed only with body and fins. All this was very special to me and kept me motivated while making this documentary.
How did Kalani start doing bodysurfing?

Kalani had a strong connection with the sea since he was small. He was born on the island of Maui in Hawaii, one of the world's main surfing areas and had his first contact with the Pacific Ocean there.

His parents already practiced surfing and bodyboarding and helped him taking his first steps in the sport. Years later the family moved to Brazil, to the city of Niterói which belongs to the state of Rio de Janeiro and is curiously close to one of the beaches with the heaviest waves in the world, Itacoatiara.

It was there that he learned to bodysurf and, more importantly, to read the sea and to control his emotions in risky situations. This is one of the main factors that make Kalani an extraordinary surfer: the ability he has to never panic in extreme situations.

What is the reaction of other surfers to bodysurfing?

Most surfers show great respect and admiration for bodysurfing. It is seen by many as a body art. It requires a very high physical and technical level and is a sport that has been growing lately.

Is there anyone else in Portugal doing what Kalani does?

Yes, there are already several very good bodysurfers in Portugal. There is a very competitive national circuit and an increasing interest in the sport. However, on the big wave side, I think Kalani is now the most extreme bodysurfer in the world. What he does requires a huge physical and mental ability. Swimming 10 to 15-meter waves without the help of a board, vest or water bike is not for everyone. It challenges the limits of the human being at sea and this is what strikes most people when they watch the documentary. 

Was the sport known before?

Yes, bodysurfing is a sport that has been known and practiced for many years, especially in Hawaii and California. 

What are your expectations for 2021?

2020 was a year with great challenges and especially unexpected things that were happening and that forced us to change everything, in all areas. After the documentary's grand opening at São Jorge movie theater as part of the "Surf at Lisbon" festival, where it won the award for best documentary short film and after having also been nominated for the Sophia Awards, everything changed in March... We already had a tour scheduled for Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, another for Brazil, and all of a sudden everything was canceled.

After a few weeks thinking about the best strategy, we chose to put the film on Apple+, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vimeo-on-demand and Xbox SVOD platforms. In June "Kalani - Gift From Heaven" was thus available and it was a great surprise to see all the enthusiasm that it generated! The feedback was very positive, the documentary was very well-received in the surf media and other generalist media. New proposals and opportunities emerged and we will take full advantage of them already in 2021. One of these opportunities was with TAP: the documentary will be available on board of the long-haul aircraft. It will be excellent! 

Although there are still many limitations and restrictions to travel, we are motivated to start recording a new movie that will have a lot of action and adrenaline! And, of course, TAP will follow this new project from start to finish! 

How do you feel about the fact that the film is available on board of our planes?

It is an honor to have my first documentary available on TAP airplanes!

Having the movie available for all passengers is undoubtedly a great reason for pride and sense of achievement, which will motivate us even more to make movies and explore the world.
What would you like to see happen in the future, in addition to winning an Oscar? 

Since I started photographing and filming, the sea has always been the theme that inspired me the most and made me pursue a career in this area. This documentary was the result of several years where I devoted myself to filming waves, surfing, bodyboarding and bodysurfing and I would like people to be more aware and concerned about the environment, especially regarding plastic pollution and the protection of endangered species.

This, in my opinion, is "our" great challenge at the moment, to which I will start to devote myself more. I will try to use my projects as a way to help and alert people. I think that this is the least I can do after given all the sea has giv me... What's an Oscar if in a few years' time I can't be on a beach without being surrounded by rubbish?