Rocco is an autistic boy who has always felt at home in the ocean. He lives in Montauk with his parents and younger sister. Ben, Rocco’s father, who has always dreamt of having a surfing son, sets out to teach Rocco, who is non-verbal, to surf. Sara, Rocco’s mother, takes the lead on his cognitive and language development. Challenges persist, but triumphs abound. Both parents find that Rocco is teaching them powerful ways to be present.
Over the years, Rocco develops confidence, grace, and remarkable balance in the water. His elation as he stands up and moves to the front of his board is clear to everyone. The beachgoers watch, spontaneously cheer “Rocco up!” and reflect on his focus, nimbleness, and joy when surfing with his father. Unscripted interviews are testimonials to boundless family love, the stoke of community support, and the neuroscience behind our enchantment with water. The short documentary is directed by John Madere and was an official selection of festivals such as Portland Film Festival, Hamptons Film Festival and Venice Shorts of California.
John Madere is an award-winning photographer and documentary filmmaker. His approach to directing documentaries is informed by his experience photographing people all over the world, from every walk of life. John’s spontaneous film interviews can draw out authentic, sometimes intensely personal, impressions. John’s 2012 short documentary “Montauk” features 20 people expressing what they love about Montauk and what it means to them. An official selection of the New York Surf Film Festival that year, it also won Best Documentary at the NYC Downtown Short Film Festival in 2013.
John doesn’t consider himself an accomplished surfer, but he is passionate about riding the waves wherever he finds them—from Byron Bay (Australia) to Pleasure Point (Santa Cruz, California) and Costa Rica. Ditch Plains in Montauk is where he’s spent the most time on a surfboard—and behind a camera capturing fellow surfers and their boards. “Tidal Anatomy” is his portrait series of surfers lying on their boards; “Freeze Frame” presents photographs of 50 surfers as they emerged from the frigid winter and early spring waters of Montauk’s Ditch Plains beach; and “The Eyes Have It” portraits were shot for a series of public-service posters and billboards designed to encourage denizens of the Hamptons to wear masks during the pandemic, even at the beach. All three series were exhibited as large-scale prints in Montauk.
Pre-pandemic, John completed a seven-week ’round-the-world photography assignment. Eleven cities on six continents later, photography and filmmaking for his clients and his art remain John’s primary obsession.
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