In the apparently inexhaustible supply of niche documentary subjects—the spelling bee dweebs of Spellbound, the drag queen sci-fi folk singer of Trekkies—the Papua New Guinean surfers of Splinters might be the niche-iest of them all. Sometime in the 1980s, the story goes, a visiting white pilot left a surfboard in Vanimo, one of the remote villages in the already-remote country of Papua New Guinea. Ever since, surfing's been a growing part of life in Vanimo; as Splinters begins, the village is preparing to host Papua New Guinea's inaugural national surfing competition. While it's too scattered to examine any one of its elements in depth—sometimes the film feels like a documentary about Papua New Guinean life that's interrupted by hippie surfing montages, at others it feels like a surf video interspersed with jarring glimpses of day-to-day life in Papua New Guinea—Splinters captures enough of these disparate but related elements that it's continually interesting.
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