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Can’t Keep Me Down, The Bobby DuCharme Story – DVD review

[DVD review]

Can’t Keep Me Down, The Bobby DuCharme Story

Film coverage by Andrew Napoli

Can’t Keep Me Down, The Bobby DuCharme Story documents the triumph of the human spirit as a phoenix from the watery flames of the sea.

It chronicles the life of Mr. DuCharme, who was poised for a career as a professional surfer when a surfing accident left him paralyzed. As a quadriplegic, Bobby has remained steadfast in his love for surfing and is a prominent member of the surf community. With the help of family, friends and community, he shows how love and a determined will are triumphant.

Bobby and his older brother Chris were raised on the beaches of San Diego. His first love was skateboarding, but once the surfing sun shone on him, it outshined everything else. When Bobby started hitting the water, his natural talent and fearless wave charging immediately earned him the respect of the local established surf community. His good nature helped him be seen as a big brother to many of the younger surfers.

He would often ditch work at the local surf shop if the waves curled their tempting finger at him. He would even borrow surfboards from the shop for a session or two (now that’s a no-no!) This young man cut school 17 times before his parents knew any better. He then proudly displayed the number 17 on his surfboard. Nice. All of this time in the ocean was paying high surfing dividends. In 1998, he won the Ocean Beach Surfer Bowl, and this is documented nicely in the movie. It is no stretch envisioning him developing into a seasoned pro. But that was not his road to travel.

Like most San Diego surfers, Bobby would surf anywhere. He was always on the search for better waves. Apparently, the surf off of Coronado is rarely worth surfing. That is, of course, except when the weather conditions are just right. Those days the waves are sizable. It was just such a day on June 1, 1999 when Bobby was out surfing and having what he calls a “dream session.”

He recalls being tired, standing straight up on his board, the wave’s lip hitting the top of his head and then falling backwards into the sandbar. Conscious, unable to move and underwater, Bobby held his breath and prayed. A life guard saw him floating and pulled him out of the water. Bobby was alive.

He had broken his neck and severely injured his spinal cord. But an outpouring of support began coming in from all around him. His hospital room was filled with family, friends, well-wishers, surfers and non-surfers alike. The community united when they were most needed. Thus began Bobby’s healing process.

And this is where the real story begins. There are interviews with surfers, family, friends, doctors and voice over commentary by Mr. DuCharme himself about his epic rise through rehab, and his new contribution to the surf culture: making surf movies out of footage received from local and professional surfers. He has made 5 movies in 6 years and Paralyzed Productions, his video production company (logo: a wheelchair shooting the tube,) helped to make Can’t Keep Me Down. This success is possible because of Bobby’s strength of will and the inexhaustible help of the community. Fundraisers paid for his wheelchair accessible van and for the computer he uses to edit his movies. In the end Bobby feels that he has found the courage to go on thanks to God.

The movie was written, produced, and directed by Jesse Schluntz, who does a fine job bringing this life story to the screen. The interviews are personal, candid and revealing. The shots of Ocean Beach are genuine and feel like home. The surf footage is excellent (this is, after all, its own kind of surf movie) and the pictures and video of the DuCharme family in their youth are pure Americana. This movie is San Diego through and through. Everyone will learn a lesson in the resilience of the human spirit from Bobby. You will be inspired.

~AN

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