Whale Rider director Niki Caro is now set to make a movie about wave riders. Big wave riders, to be more specific.
Caro, who recently directed Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan, is teaming up with Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron (Monster, Mad Max: Fury Road) to make an untitled movie for Netflix that centers on four women and their fight to compete in big wave surfing.
According to Netflix’s Twitter account, writer Becky Johnston (The Prince of Tides, Seven Years in Tibet) will adapt the screenplay based on a 2019 New York Times article about surfers Bianca Valenti, Andrea Moller, Paige Alms, and Keala Kennelly. Deadline says the feature film “will follow four women who form a powerful bond as they surf the world’s most dangerous spots and fight for the right to compete in big-wave contests.”
Caro will direct the movie and produce it alongside Theron, AJ Dix, and Beth Kono for their production company Denver and Delilah. The New Zealand-born Caro’s previous directing credits include Mulan, North Country, A Heavenly Vintage, The Zookeeper’s Wife, and the Disney sports drama McFarland, USA.
In 2016, Valenti, one of the best female surfers in the world, helped found an activist group called the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, which had a massive impact on the sport and helped usher in a new era of women being invited to big wave contests. A sexist boy’s club mentality had gripped the sport for years, with men using the towering waves as a way to prove their machismo to their fellow male surfers and earn their status as big wave riders. Facing considerable obstacles, these women shouldered their way into competitions that were once only populated by men and proved that they could ride those giant 50-80 foot waves as well as anyone. But their fight wasn’t over: they were still earning significantly less than men doing the same thing.
Caro has made a career out of telling underdog stories on film, often with women in the center of the frame, so this story makes sense for her to tell (and I bet the freedom Netflix offers looks pretty good compared to working for other studios). As for Theron, it’s easy to see why a story like this would strike a chord with her, since she seems to have made it a mission of hers to show audiences that women can kick equal amounts of ass in the modern studio blockbuster system.
Here’s a video from 2017 showing Bianca Valenti in action:
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