Bra Boys, 90 mins, rated [TBA],
opening in cinemas on 15 March 2007.
(A slight variation of this review
appeared in the March 2007 issue of the NSW Law Society Journal)
By MICHELE ASPREY, Lawyer
The Bra Boys are the boys from Maroubra – a gang of tough, tattooed,
larrikin surfers. This documentary is their story, as told by the three
eldest Abberton brothers: Sunny (the director and writer), Jai and
But this is no ordinary surfing film. The film makers set their story
against the wider social history of Maroubra, beginning with the
arrival of Captain Cook! ‘Maroubra,’ they tell us, is Aboriginal for
‘Place of Thunder’. It seems an apt name. Apart from the pounding surf,
the brothers show us that Maroubra has had its fair share of trouble
and strife: poverty, social dislocation, crime and drugs – using their
family almost as a case study.
The boys had a heroin-addicted mother with a convicted bank-robber
partner, who attacked 14-year-old Koby with a baseball bat, prompting
him to leave home and eventually move in with older brother Sunny. The
brothers supported each other – Koby has ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ tattooed
around his neck. This support developed into a wider network, and
eventually into the group known as the ‘Bra Boys’.
Both Sunny and Kobe became professional surfers – Koby is known as one
of the top international ‘big wave’ surfers. They believe the secret of
their success was their tough upbringing and self-reliance: it made
them fearless. But the real drama in the story of the Bra Boys involves
a murder charge. On 5 August 2003 Jai Abberton fatally shot standover
man (and Bra Boy) Anthony Hines. Jai was charged with murder. He
claimed he had no choice: Hines was going to rape Jai’s girlfriend.
Later, Koby was charged as an accessory after the fact, and hindering
the police investigation into Hines’ death. While Jai served twenty
months in jail, Koby was bailed and began surfing bigger and bigger
waves to take his mind off his troubles.
The film is surprisingly gripping, and quite the social document. Not
only does it examine youth and surfing culture, partying, drinking,
drugs, football, violence and crime, it also explores multicultural
Maroubra. It touches on the aftermath of the Cronulla riots, and the
role of the Abberton brothers in (supposedly) limiting the spread of
violence to Maroubra and beyond. In a revealing sequence towards the
end of the film, the Bra Boys disclose their diverse national origins.
There’s a vast amount of documentary footage. Much intimate material
was shot by Sunny, who had begun filming long before Jai was charged
with murder. There’s plenty of surfing material and footage of major
news events like riots. In one section, the film makers have re-created
a riot outside the Maroubra RSL. The variety of these sources leads to
noticeable variations in film quality, but that’s only to be expected
in a documentary like this.
I also had occasional problems with the film’s sound levels: for me,
too-loud music sometimes drowned out important spoken information. But
generally the film is technically good, and the music is an interesting
mix of contemporary Australian rock and hip-hop. The mammoth task of
editing was done by Macario de Souza, himself a Bra Boy, who also
contributed to the soundtrack.
Russell Crowe, who is friendly with the Abberton brothers, narrates. He
was also credited as executive producer of the film when I saw it, but
has asked that that credit be removed before the film’s release.
The film ends with an intriguing sequence farewelling those Bra Boys
who have died. It’s a long list, but there’s no information about how
they died, so we are left wondering: was it drugs, surfing, violence,
fast cars or something else?
Despite the serious subject, there’s a lot of humour in the film. The
exhilaration of surfing for these boys is clear. So is the fact that
they love to party – even with their solicitors! They pack a lot into
the 90 minutes of the film, and I’m sure they have much more to do and
say. I suspect we’ll hearing again from, and about, the Bra Boys.