Dave Not Coming Back (2018)

Two friends, Don and Dave were diving in the cave of Boesmansgat: 283 meters. Right before surfacing up, Dave - who'd just broken a world record - finds a body. They decide to dive back and retrieve it.
  • 7.0 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-20 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Karim B Haroun, Director:
  • Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre, Producer:


7 / 10

A bit too polite and light on story details

If you don't know anything about this story, one that has failed to be made as a feature but now does get told through a feature length documentary--though one that uses recreated material almost more than real material recorded during the real events. The story is interesting and as one written account of the events explained well, this story almost doesn't sense unless you believe in ghost stories. And this film isn't interested in telling and showing the more ghostly elements and that's a failing as what's left is more routine and at a distance.

The trouble is if you search around on line a bit you'll find more complete versions of this story told in less time, both in print versions and an early shorter video version. Some of the unpleasant details need to be included and are left out here. They spend a bit too much time with pretty shots and recreation/reenactments of minor details while leaving out some admittedly horrible details that explain and give the true story real punch in it's critical moments.

The filmmakers want to respect the privacy of the tragedy, perhaps because they interview the real life people as part of the film, but this leaves out the drama in favor of a safe distance approach to these people's feelings. It doesn't challenge the people about if there is a legitimate reason the story happened at all.

There is a real question as to if Dave's quest was more to prove something to himself or really just give himself a bigger thrill, to find more worlds to conquer than it was some humanitarian effort. In bits filmed at the time Dave is shown being just a bit self aware and what soon proved to be overconfident in his own abilities. For one thing he doesn't really seem to be in very good physical shape.

Dave wore a camera on his head and eventually the film is building towards showing that point of view footage to explain and experience what his friend don says is in part a Snuff film. They end up showing so little of this footage that you are never really in Dave's shoes, Dave is trying to recover and body and the filmmakers seem intent on not showing you that body so only the murkiest parts are even shown and with very little explanation as to what's happening. Again others have done a much better job of handling the graphic and explanatory elements of Dave's mistakes and end, so it's not like an impossible task, just one this film fails to do well.

The film doesn't really come out with an answer if all this was worth it, though it suggests fairly successfully that diving is in a sense it's own reward, but in this case it's the survivors who really pay the price for that.

The center of this film is really Dave's friend Don and on that level it is at it's best.

4 / 10

Slow and vague

I agree w other reviews that this film is short on details and long on self-aggrandizement.tthe divers were ill prepared and infuriatingly casual about the risk. When Dave says he's not really there to retrieve the body and giddily relates he's just doing it as a fun adventure. Don is lucky he's alive.

8 / 10


Spoiler alert: don't read the title.

The life of scuba divers in search of depth seems more like a death wish. So why the hell tempt fate for what appears to be very little reward? That question is never really answered, yet we are introduced to several characters who unflinchingly espouse their devotion and unwavering dedication to the activity.

Boesmansgat is a deepwater submerged fresh water cave that punctures the South African Kalahari Desert. It is the monster's mouth that invites intrepid divers to test their mettle. It is where records are set. It is where people die. In 1994 twenty year old Deon Dryer perished there. A decade later Dave Shaw discovered the body at 270m. Shortly after, he enlisted friend and fellow diver Don Shirley for a recovery mission. This is the story of Deon, Dave and Don. You can't write this stuff.

As documentaries go, revealing a large part of the mystery from the get go is unusual practice, but here it works. Splicing original footage of the recovery dive, with re-enactments, director John Malak avoids the creepy sensationalism television favours, unfolding the story in a tense, beautiful and technical manner befitting the subject matter. The intricate preparation, endless logistical details and a spider web of planning is extraordinary, but when things go wrong, it is the in situ reaction of the team that ramps up the drama.

Diving down is easy, coming back up is not. Same with this movie.

  • hipcRANK

7 / 10

Home video masquerading as documentary

What should have been a gripping breakdown on the many perils of cave diving and the people who risk their lives doing it instead delivers a sketchy collection of disjointed interviews, re-enactments and talking heads. Basically, if you weren't in Dave's immediate social circle you'd have no idea what was happening here. The filmmaker is working on the assumption that everyone watching is fully aware of the backstory, protagonists and the incredibly complex technical aspects of cave diving equipment.

Who are these people? What do they do? Where are they from? What did cave divers outside their circle think of this expedition? (The cave diving world is tiny). How does a re-breather work? How was this cave formed? (It's in the middle of the Kalahari). Why didn't they consult a coroner or pathologist to determine the challenges of removing a 10 year old corpse. This list goes on...

On the plus side whoever scored the music for this film did a first class job, it's excellent.

1 / 10

so boring

Another documentary about a bunch of guys who get off on themselves by telling a story that's way too long. Diving into deep dark crevices, cave exploring, and jumping out of airplanes gets you the Darwin award. A pointless and directionless doc. The boredom set in around thirteen min. No details or background about the man who died.