Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: This Ain't California

Prize-winning documentary paints an affecting tale of young GDR rebels on wheels, but is marred by a busy, self-conscious aesthetic approach.

April 11, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375408-This_Aint_Calif_Md.jpg
Who knew that skateboarding was such a big deal in the German Democratic Republic before the fall of the Wall? Martin Perciel’s documentary This Ain’t California explores this phenomenon, centering around a star shredder, Denis “Panik” Paracek, who led a ragtag band of East German skateboarders. This mythic figure began life as a talented boy swimmer whose fanatically aggressive father trained him relentlessly with Olympic ambitions. Denis, however, had other, far more individualistic notions and gave up swimming, left home and pioneered in Germany the sport for which he became renowned. Today, some 30 years later, the original skateboarders have a reunion in which they fondly recall the halcyon days of their youth, when their flamboyant antics briefly lit up the drably repressive Iron Curtain which enclosed them.

Perciel uses a number of devices—including animation—to flesh out his story and put it into context, some more successful than others. He’s fond of flashy-fast, panoramic montages of historical film clips (Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, 9/11, the fall of the Wall, war in the Middle East, etc.) which can be both numbing and distracting from the simple account of the past he is trying to put forth. Some controversy was aroused on the festival circuit when he admitted to mixing actual doc footage of the skaters with recreations that include Paracek being played by German model Kai Hillebrandt.

Despite the busy, fancy-schmancy mise-en-scène, the film manages to be an affecting, elegiac evocation of a feckless time now gone forever. German reunification—as well as maturity—effectively changed things forever. Most of the skateboarders wound up getting married and holding down regular jobs. As for Paracek, how he came to enlist in the army and eventually lose his life in Afghanistan adds yet more mournful thrust to the story.


Film Review: This Ain't California

Prize-winning documentary paints an affecting tale of young GDR rebels on wheels, but is marred by a busy, self-conscious aesthetic approach.

April 11, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375408-This_Aint_Calif_Md.jpg

Who knew that skateboarding was such a big deal in the German Democratic Republic before the fall of the Wall? Martin Perciel’s documentary This Ain’t California explores this phenomenon, centering around a star shredder, Denis “Panik” Paracek, who led a ragtag band of East German skateboarders. This mythic figure began life as a talented boy swimmer whose fanatically aggressive father trained him relentlessly with Olympic ambitions. Denis, however, had other, far more individualistic notions and gave up swimming, left home and pioneered in Germany the sport for which he became renowned. Today, some 30 years later, the original skateboarders have a reunion in which they fondly recall the halcyon days of their youth, when their flamboyant antics briefly lit up the drably repressive Iron Curtain which enclosed them.

Perciel uses a number of devices—including animation—to flesh out his story and put it into context, some more successful than others. He’s fond of flashy-fast, panoramic montages of historical film clips (Bill Clinton, Princess Diana, 9/11, the fall of the Wall, war in the Middle East, etc.) which can be both numbing and distracting from the simple account of the past he is trying to put forth. Some controversy was aroused on the festival circuit when he admitted to mixing actual doc footage of the skaters with recreations that include Paracek being played by German model Kai Hillebrandt.

Despite the busy, fancy-schmancy mise-en-scène, the film manages to be an affecting, elegiac evocation of a feckless time now gone forever. German reunification—as well as maturity—effectively changed things forever. Most of the skateboarders wound up getting married and holding down regular jobs. As for Paracek, how he came to enlist in the army and eventually lose his life in Afghanistan adds yet more mournful thrust to the story.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

BBoy for Life
Film Review: BBoy for Life

The dancing is familiar but the stakes are higher in this moving documentary set in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. More »

Manakamana
Film Review: Manakamana

An observational documentary in which the camera captures the passengers of a cable-car cabin in Nepal. More »

Visions of Mary Frank
Film Review: Visions of Mary Frank

Deeply loving, if too slight, documentary about one of the great beauties of the New York art world, who always forged her own path. More »

The Jewish Cardinal
Film Review: The Jewish Cardinal

Informative, absorbing, but as obvious as its title and a bit too glib for its own good, this French import will appeal mainly to religious addicts fascinated by the feverishly agenda-ridden internal workings of the Catholic Church. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Rio 2
Film Review: Rio 2

Busy sequel to the popular animated feature follows the original's blue macaws on a journey from Rio de Janeiro to an endangered rainforest. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here