Coming to NYC’s Maysles Cinema for a one-week run beginning this Friday, April 12: THIS AIN’T CALIFORNIA
Marten Persiel’s look back at skateboarding in 1980s East Germany made its world premiere at last year’s Berlinale, where it picked up a jury award. It went on to screen at Karlovy Vary, Warsaw, CPH:DOX, Tempo, and Rooftop Films, among others.
Seamlessly blending non-fiction and fiction, Persiel’s film revels in the subversive freedom a group of GDR teens found in skateboarding, and the close-knit, family-like community they helped found around the underground sport in the repressive Eastern Bloc nation. Structured as a memorial to the wild boy “Panik” (by some accounts a composite character based on real skaters who were part of the group), the film gathers a number of former skaters more than twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, as they reflect on their turbulent youth. Utilizing Super-8mm footage (some re-created, other contemporary), Persiel wonderfully translates the gleeful joy in the stories his subjects share of resisting authority and attempting to adopt the trappings of Western popular culture within their tightly constrained, Soviet-controlled bubble – a form of political defiance despite their surface apoliticism. Though the film has come under fire for not explicitly announcing its hybridized form – and perhaps it does take too many liberties with the audience in this regard – it remains an eloquent, ridiculously enjoyable depiction of a singular time and place, and to the power of subcultures to unite individuals and leave an indelible impression on their life experiences.