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

Two Days One Night
Film Review: Two Days, One Night

Uncharacteristically, this new movie from Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne moves rather slowly, and mostly consists of the hero having similar conversations with a number of her colleagues, yet a good cast and the Dardennes’ understated portrait of working-class life compensates for these shortcomings. More »

PK
Film Review: PK

An alien trying to return home tangles with religious authorities in a low-key Bollywood message drama. More »

A Small Section
Film Review: A Small Section of the World

Worthy but uninvolving documentary about the coffee-producing women of Costa Rica. More »

Sagrada
Film Review: Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

The fabulous 130-year work-in-progress that is Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral, as well as its crazy-brilliant originator, Antonio Gaudi, is the focus of this vividly informative documentary. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Selma review
Film Review: Selma

An impassioned lead performance and timely parallels to contemporary social issues enliven and elevate this otherwise somewhat routine biopic. More »

Into the Woods
Film Review: Into the Woods

Over-scaled, too dark and only intermittently charming Sondheim musical adaptation does a disservice to a great cast and is often so noisy you can't even appreciate the music. 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