Monday, November 30, 2020

Dave Not Coming Back Review: A Harrowing and Human Tale of Humanity and Hubris

Mark Andrews	...	Self Deon Dreyer	Deon Dreyer	...	Self (archive footage) Theo Dreyer	Theo Dreyer	...	Self Peter Herbst	Peter Herbst	...	Self Jack Meintjies	Jack Meintjies	...	Self Ann Shaw	Ann Shaw	...	Self David Shaw	David Shaw	...	Self (archive footage) Andre Shirley	Andre Shirley	...	Self Don Shirley	Don Shirley	...	Self (as Don) Verna Van Schaik	Verna Van Schaik	...	Self (as Verna)

Release date: November 10, 2020
Running time: 92 minutes
Starring: Mark Andrews, Deon Dreyer, Theo Dreyer 
Written and Directed By: Jonah Malak

Two high level scuba-divers and long-time friends, Don and Dave, broke a world record for depth in the Boesmansgat cave in South Africa. It would take them 15 minutes to reach the bottom, but 12 hours to surface. Having reached the bottom, against all odds, they find a body. They decide to come back and retrieve it. They call the parents, enroll 8 fellow divers, and hire a cameraman to document the dive. The camera will follow them throughout the preparation and the dive, including to the bottom of the cave. Little did they know that on that historic dive, Dave would not be coming back. In this time of over-performance driven by self-promotion and self-filming comes Dave Not Coming Back, a story of loss and mourning where egoism and altruism, hubris and self-control, risk-taking and spirituality all go hand in hand. A cascade of choices and tense paradoxes that lead to a tragedy long foreseen, yet impossible to prevent.

Director: Jonah Malak Writer: Jonah Malak    Produced by  Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre	...	producer Karim B Haroun	...	producer Marwan Haroun	...	executive producer Jonah Malak	...	producer Bob Moore	...	executive producer
Dave Not Coming Back is a fascinating documentary about the difficulty and danger of deep sea diving.  The story is told from documentary footage of the actual dives along with interviews from those that participated in them.  This leads to some tense interviews up front as people tell the story of the dive while tip toeing around the ultimate result that everyone knows occurs due to the title of the film: Dave Not Coming Back.  But it also introduces the audience to this fascinating and dangerous sport, where you can dive 280 meters in 15 minutes, then take 12 hours to resurface as you slowly normalize the pressure in your body.  It also has some amazing footage from these dives, although not as much as I was hoping for.  There are some really interesting locales explored, but because of the nature of these deep cave dives, you can usually only see a narrow bit as the only light that exists in those spaces is from the flashlights.  

And this documentary is special because of the relative obscurity and danger of the sport.  Like a documentary on mountain climbing, the wrong decision in these situations can lead to permanent damage or death.  It is really both fascinating and scary to see how realtivley minor decisions can lead to terrible consequences.  And that is another thing that is special about the documentary: depsite it being focused on the deep sea diving, the movie overall is a very human story.  It deals with hubris and humiliity, sacrifice and self-control, and ultimately it is a story about someone who takes on more than they need to and pays the price.  The story of Dave Not Coming Back is both a beautiful and cautionary tale, of friends and colleagues coming together to make something special happen, and then coming together to try and overcome the terrible obstacles and dangers that happened.  And when you finally do learn what ultimatley happened in that cave, it is humbling to see how very minor choices could lead to such dire consequences.

Dave Not Coming Back is both a cautionary tale and a beautiful human story about a dive that was bigger than all involved, and that led to some dire consequences.

Watch it.

Documentary Diving Cave Consequences Danger Planning South Africa

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Dave Not Coming Back is available digitally and on demand November 10, 2020.

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