SwitchFadeA world-class band sets out to create new music and ends up on a journey of self-discovery.

Fading West
1 hour 23 minutes
English, Dolby Digital, 5.1 Stereo, wide screen
in-ter-pret studios

Most rock documentaries have their fair share of the expected trifecta: drugs, sex and rock and roll. This is usually mixed with in-fighting, hotel room trashing, and the promise of a glowing horizon of rehab and a come-back tour by the end of the film. Fading West substitutes surfing, soul-searching, and musical exploration for those less-savory elements but manages to keep the rock and roll part intact.

For an hour and twenty-three minutes director Matt Katsolis chronicles the members of San Diego's Switchfoot (Jon Foreman, Tim Foreman, Chad Butler, Jerome Fontamillas, and Drew Shirley) as these childhood friends embark on a journey of self-discovery informed by three things that are common to all of them: music, faith and surfing. Yes, this is as much of a surfing film as it is a music film, featuring striking surf footage from various parts of the world. You don't have to love surfing to enjoy Fading West but you can certainly add an additional 'thumbs up' if you do.

Although it's not a concert film, Fading West does contain some very well-shot concert footage with excellent sound and dynamic editing. No complete song performances are included, but the tantalising musical glimpses we get indicate that there must be some very interesting performances on the cutting room floor.....

Setting out to create new music in new places, the band travels to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Bali, testing the waters literally and metaphorically while encountering surf legends such as Rob Machado and members of the Goo Goo Dolls, Foo Fighters, and even former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, who walks past a somewhat star-struck Drew Shirley backstage at a festival.

Before long we see that the life of a rock band isn't all crowd surfing and sight-seeing, though, as the band talks about the tension between doing what they love to do as artists and having to be away from their wives and children. "We bring the songs we believe in to uncomfortable places," says Jon Foreman, with a sense of mission, even while questioning about whether or not the emotional balancing act of touring is always justified.

We learn from an emotional Tim Foreman about his guilt feelings for not 'being around' for his wife's miscarriage. We also witness his brother Jon getting a phone call about his daughter's impending surgery – and his decision to fly home from down-under to be where he felt really needed to be. This leaves the remainder of the band's time in Australia without their front-man and with a lot to think about.

Fading West is a thoughtful documentary, but by no means a downer. The bond between these five men is encouraging and the joy that they get in surfing and creating the music that they feel so passionate about is a positive and life-affirming thing. The director catches moments of humor between the band members and creates a film that's as much a travelogue as it is a tour-diary. The introspection of Jon Foreman in particular, is off-set by the exuberant clips of the band performing in everything from a huge festival to a small club in Bali.

You'll get a feel for the heart of Switchfoot in Fading West – whether they're riding a wave in Bali or interacting with a childrens' choir in South Africa. Most of all, you'll get a sense that these are men who have a deep sense of knowing what they're doing and why they keep doing it.

Great imagery, excellent sound, and insight into a world-touring band who happen to also be five normal people with families – that's what you can expect to discover in Fading West.

Bert Saraco

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