Point of Change (Rebecca Coley, 2023): UK, Australia, US, Indonesia

Reviewed by Logan Surber. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2024.
Point of Change is an enticing visual escapade on the story of surf culture surrounding Nias Island in Indonesia. Directed by Rebecca Coley, this documentary has a very dense story of the history of how Nias became the tourist surf town that it is today and how it was ravaged by its tourism and outsider culture. The narrative is able to weave the original history up to the modern-day legends that came from Nias is a beautiful and depressing story that shows the need for the preservation of both land and culture.

The first section goes over the history of how Nias was discovered by surf explorers Kevin Lovett and John Giesel which grounds the film in the history of the Indigenous people with Super 8 footage supplied by Kevin along with animations to make the slower pacing more interesting. Although the pacing was slower with some sections that could have been cut out, it gave an in-depth look at what it was like exploring the island and being immersed in its culture, with great detail put into showing the day-to-day of the surfers and the villagers.

This world-building history of Nias culminates in the modern day, where Nias is a world-renowned surf spot that is overrun by tourism which uprooted its long-lasting history in favor of a better economy. The tourism that was brought to Nias threw the delicate balance between culture and modernity out the window, with everything being built and brought in due to Western tourists needing them. This is a late warning to many tourist locations on how outsider ideals can destroy years of culture and history to conform.

Point of Change highlights the two sides of history for surf spots like Nias, the cultural history, and the capitalist takeover. It confronts the harsh realities of unchecked tourism on Nias’s delicate ecosystem. The influx of visitors has brought about profound changes, transforming the island’s once-pristine shores into a commercialized paradise, such as when Coca-Cola spotlighted it in a commercial and used it as a marketing tool to sell more products as a “party town.” Point of Change does not shy away from showing the environmental and cultural erosion that has stemmed from this transformation, serving as a reminder of the consequences of prioritizing profit over preservation.

Even through all of the turmoil brought about by these changes, Coley celebrates the resilience of the human condition, highlighting activists and key members of the community who preserve and show Nias’s cultural heritage. Prominent events such as the Nias Pro bring the community together to show off the surf culture while celebrating the culture and history of its people. 

In its exploration of Nias’s past and present, Point of Change is not just a documentary of an island, but a call to action. A reminder of our responsibility to protect the planet’s cultural and natural treasures for future generations. By showing the line between tradition and progress, Rebecca challenges the viewers to protect the cultural and natural treasures for future generations. By showing the divide between tradition and progress, Point of Change calls viewers to help forge a more sustainable and equitable future.

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