Once guests started to take their seats at The Modern Honolulu's ballroom, there was a sudden hush within the crowd of nearly 300. Beer and cocktail sips came to a halt for a moment as the lights dimmed low for the premiere of Etienne Aurelius' Born & Raised documentary series.
The quiet didn't last for too long as hollers and whistles echoed over shots of big wave surfers gliding through thick and monstrous ocean swells. A particular chicken-skin moment was a shot of a surfer's silhouette among a wall of waves crashing into a rocky edge shoreline. Violin background music played in perfect contrast with the action shot as a roar from the audience sent the room into an energetic rhythm.
For the next 20 minutes, the episode weaved through storylines of Hawai'i's most notorious big-wave surfers. Koa Rothman, Makua Rothman, Kai Lenny and Billy Kemper were the focus, detailing their humble and often painful beginnings to amazing stories of resilience and community. Paired with incredible aerial shots of the island's landscape and shorelines to intimate portrait shots of Aurelius' subjects and the booming voice of narrator Jason Momoa, Born & Raised is a mesmerizing narrative of adversity and love through times of hardship and doubt. What's most refreshing to see in this episode is its dedication to community. Although every surfer highlighted within the film has the right to hide in seclusion from their new found fame and fortune, they each have found ways to remain humble and dedicated to giving back to their communities. Aurelius noted that factor was intentional for the audience as he wanted to emphasize everyone's need for great role models to look up to.
"Just imagine if our youth grows up seeing this type of docuseries as a form of entertainment versus some of the other rated-R things that they're used to," Aurelius says. "I want to be able to share this type of content with the world and let people know, especially our kids from Hawai'i, that you can be anything you want to be as long as you work hard and surround yourself with good people."
Aurelius' hit music video "Loss for Words" with big-wave surfer and musician Landon McNamara is another example of his quest to get people talking and connecting. He hopes his Born & Raised series, which airs tonight on FOX at 9:30 p.m., will begin conversations within Hawai'i and eventually branch out (including his series) to other parts of the United States and the world.
"There's so many stories to tell out there," Aurelius continues. "That's the beauty of our world. No matter who we are, or where we come from, we're all born and raised somewhere and it's up to us to do something with that and set an example for our next generation to follow."
Here is the official trailer, narrated by Jason Momoa:
For more information on Etienne, go to etienneaurelius.com