TWO AGAINST THE ATLANTIC

AN ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY BY ADAM ROWLEY


January 2018, two brothers, Greg and Jude, set out to row across the atlantic ocean in a tiny rowing boat

Their purpose was to raise £100 000 for charity after the tragic and painful death of their father from skin cancer, and purge the family of the grief that threatened to engulf them.

Confronting extreme weather and a host of life-threatening technical problems, there was simply no guarantee they would survive. Yet somehow, they made it. It is a voyage of physical hardship, emotional extremes, and – above all – an extraordinary, spriitual and personal transformation that will resonate with all of us.

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January 2018, two brothers, Greg and Jude, set out to row across the Atlantic Ocean in a tiny rowing boat

Their purpose was to raise £100 000 for charity after the tragic and painful death of their father from skin cancer, and purge the family of the grief that threatened to engulf them.

Confronting extreme weather and a host of life-threatening technical problems, there was simply no guarantee they would survive. Yet somehow, they made it.  While others have managed this journey, and often under more severe conditions, what stands out in their story are the candid and searingly personal video diary revelations.  Somewhere between confessional and meditation, their insight, their troubles and their emotional odyssey combines with beautiful cinematography to tell the tale  of a voyage of physical hardship, emotional extremes, and – above all – an extraordinary, spIritual and personal transformation that will resonate with all of us.

The story begins in 2015, ith the death of  Pete Massey, after an arduous 16-year battle with skin cancer.  Grief hit his family like a ten-ton truck.  A year on and his step-son Greg Bailey makes the momentous decision to drag his family out of the claws of depression by rowing the Atlantic Ocean with his brother Jude, unaccompanied,  to raise money for the British Skin Foundation. 

Through moving interviews with friends and family, we feel the weight of loss but also the spirit of determination of the two boys, as they train and prepare for their transatlantic marathon. 

We feel their youthful optimism and spiritual hope   as they prepare to set sail from beautiful Gran Canaria.

And then, with exquisitely cinematic reconstruction footage and a wealth of GoPro video diary footage, we share their incredible journey to reach Barbados.


Within two days of setting sail, and already overwhelmed by homesickness, seasickness and anxiety, the brothers boat is hit by a two day storm with powerful winds and 25-foot waves. 

Jude, only eighteen years old, terrified and traumatised, breaks down, and plans to sabotage the boat. 

Older brother Greg soldiers on, with the determined, stoic spirit of the A& E doctor and adventurer who climbed the Materhorn at the age of fourteen.


Yet no sooner have the storms passed, then they discover their water-maker, their only easy route to making drinking water, has broken down.  Numerous vain attempts to fix it, leave the boys having to pump water five hours a day.  

Working on a round the clock, 24/7 schedule of two hours rowing, two hours sleeping -  where one of them is always at the oars - to have to add pumping water by hand into their valuable rest times, is a massive drain on their energies.

Despite this, the boys regain their optimism, especially when they get the water maker working temporarily, only to very soon be hit by even worse storms.  Forty foot waves and gusting winds buffeting the boat around result in all their instruments failing, in the water-maker breaking down, and in Greg himself disintegrating into tears.

As if this were not disaster enough, after having been followed by a shark all day, the boys are hit by a massive wave and their boat capsizes. 

They consider abandoning the boat and getting in the life raft.  But this would meant being stranded at sea for days, or even weeks, in the hope of rescue, and with a serious risk of hypothermia.

It is their greatest moment of despair and terror so far.  Greg take control of the situation.  The brothers would not give up.  They right the boat and continue to row.  And to make the Herculean effort to stay optimistic.

The worst of their weather problems having passed,  their main problem now is that with no auto-helm, the boys are compelled to row with one hand and steer with the other, an exhausting and painful compromise that slows them down severely, and causes a rotated cuff injury that is to put Greg’s right arm in a temporary sling.


It is at this point that gradually a new story emerges.  Faced with nothing but ocean and sky, with extreme privation and nothing to do but take the pain and keep rowing, Greg and Jude begin to find a whole new sense of peace and optimism.

The video diaries from this part of the journey reveal perhaps some of the most moving, beautiful and inspirational observations ever to have been told on camera, as the boys come to terms with this new, stripped-down existence.  To row beneath a canopy of stars.  To be covered in bruises, blisters and boils, with your hands reduced to claws that can barely open, with every fibre and muscle screaming in pain, they find – extraordinarily – a very real inner harmony and joy.

Layering our narrative with the mourning of their father, concerns for society and the environment, and the wonder at the beauty that unfolds before them in the shape of the aquatic wildlife they encounter, from fish and dolphins to whates and sharks and a friendly bird that follows them almost their whole journey, we share in the brothers’  discovery of the pure, transcendent,  joy of simply existing.


 

Day 52, and Barbados hoves into sight.  We share the excitement not only of the Brothers, but also their family on land, as Greg’s father Will (Jude’s step father) sails out to meet them.  Of course there are tears of relief and happiness on their momentous arrival.  We are invited in to the luxurious St Charles Port marina to join in the hugs and kisses and the euphoric disbelief that Greg and Jude have made it.  These are tearjerker moments to match any of the raw emotions we have so far witnessed.

A happy ending?  Yes.

An incredible story of endurance, perseverance, strength, determination and suffering?  Yes.

But most importantly, this is an adventure story with a difference.   It would be to easy to ask what makes thousands of miles of nothing but sea and sky and rowling interesting?   Sure there are terrible storms. Sure, their boat capsizes.  Sure, they suffer heat stroke, fear, pain, hallucinations. And all of that is compelling.

But what gives this film it’s power and originality, what keeps you rooted to the screen, is the emotional, intimate and compelling video diary narrative, the very personal yet universal human story that unfolds.  Greg and Jude are very sweet, humble  and likeable characters, and what emerges from their story is how most of us would hope to adapt and survive to such hardships.  It is a story of our times, when so many of us are struggling with their own worries and demons.


- the vulnerability of Jude, only 18 years old, the youngest person ever to row across any ocean, and now a guiness book of world records holder

- the strength and determination of his older brother Greg,  who , through love and sheer determination, holds it all together

- the terrible family tragedy of cancer, something we can all relate to, that kickstarted this row

- and the relief and love when they arrive in one of the most beautiful places on the planet to be greeted by their mother ON MOTHERS DAY

This is a  timeless, enthralling, and above-all, personal and emotionally engaging odyssey that in its focus on the spiritual and emotional journey of our everyman characters, is guaranteed to hold you and move you to the joyous end. 


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IN SEARCH OF A NEW HUMANITY

Below is the feaure in it’s original 85-minute Climate Change form. I had gone a long way down this path, but listening to feedback from an early viewing, decided that - for the time being at least, Greg and Jude’s story should be allowed to breath and flourish as a stand-alone, emotional adventure.

However, may people were also still taken with the original idea of marrying their adventure and spiritual awakening to a revelatory documentary about adapting and reacting to climate change. So for those with an inclination to see where this might head, here is where the feature-length edit was left at. With amazing contributions from George Monbiot, Dr Cat Scott, Greta Thunberg, and Extinction Rebellion’s Dr Gail Bradbrook, the very first, very rough rough cut is up. So much work still to do. The introduction lacks punch and needs focus. The idea still needs focus. We have contributions yet to come in from the green party’s Sharhar Ali, from environmental researcher Alyona Rydannykh and from others. But for now, here is where we are at, and any feedback is welcome

IN SEARCH OF A NEW HUMANITY - WORKING CUT 8TH MAY