Sundance / RIO BREAKS


Director / Cinematographer / Editor: Justin Mitchell
Co-Producers: Vince Medeiros & Justin Mitchell

UPDATE / March 6, 2017....

"Over the weekend, I learned that Fabio da Costa, the focus of RIO BREAKS, was shot and killed in a favela of Rio de Janeiro. As relayed by Ricardo, one of our producers, 'He was shot by Bope (special operations battalion).'

The news is devastating. When we filmed with Fabio and his best friend Naama in 2006, they were just 12 years old, sweet and funny boys who reminded me of two grumbling old men with how they bickered back and forth with one another. Even though they had lived hard lives in the favela, they both maintained a sense of wonder for life, and an innocence that was felt by everyone around them.

When me and Vince (co-producer,) first heard this news, our minds and hearts separately jumped back to a moment that now weighs on us both. It was when Fabio asked if we could take him home with us when we left Brazil. Take him away from the life of the favela. To get out. Naama had a family, Fabio 'lived' with his grandparents. The heaviness of it hit us then, with us both talking about if / how / what could be done. Our hope was that the film could have an impact for the boys individually and for the surf club and surrounding members. In the end, the film did make some amazing waves (pun intended:) the Cantagalo favela surf club received a full renovation / makeover, Naama was flown to Hawaii to surf with Kelly Slater (one of his wishes in the film,) and Naama and his family were moved out of the favela and put in a new home. But in all this, Fabio was still lost. Like so many, he never made it out. And now he's gone. What's left is a giant hole in my heart.

If you haven't seen it, please take a moment to watch the trailer for RIO BREAKS and remember Fabio."


I directed and photographed this feature-length documentary on the beaches and in the hillside favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Shot on HVX200 with the Redrock adapter, nikon lenses, as well as super 16mm and some 35mm. The project spanned from 2004, when I first read Vince Medeiros’ article on the favela surf clubs, to 2009.

We had our world premiere on October 2, 2009 at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival and our North America premiere in Hawaii a couple of weeks later.

The film was pre-bought by the Sundance Channel and began airing in Octrober 2009.

The film was released in September 2010 on DVD by our friends at FACTORY 25.

1-10-2011 UPDATE: We have new theatrical & DVD distribution in the UK with the rad folks at MR BONGO.

2-16-2011 UPDATE: RIO BREAKS is now available for download on I-TUNES! Buy or rent it here!

Official Trailer to the documentary film RIO BREAKS out on DVD August 31, 2010!
Purchase DVD from or direct from Factory 25.