(2001) dir. Stacy Peralta
Dogtown and Z-Boys is a surprisingly cool documentary about the rise of modern skateboarding in and around Venice, CA during the 1970’s. Directed by Stacy Peralta, one of the subjects of Dogtown, the film offers intimate detail and suggests a strong social context for the birth of this suburban underground scene and its development.
It’s an interesting though obscure history, one that isn’t really all that old. But in light of the mass culture popularity of the X-Games and extreme sports in general, it’s interesting to see the “invention” of some of these forms. There is a sense of self-egrandizement that accompanies this film, such as treating the first time that Tony Alva caught air while pool skating as though it was the discovery of plutonium,…though for these guys, whose world is wholly comprised of skateboarding, the invention may well have been just that explosive. This highly subjective slant is part of the film’s character and charm. Narrated by Sean Penn as well as via interviews with all of the main skateboarders in their present stage of early middle age, the film is very much a document of their vision and their interpretation of events.
Peralta situates the birth of the skate culture in the fiscal, societal, and political malaise of the period and at times even suggests a social criticism embodied in the activity. While this might truly portray the subjective sensation and attitude that was the boredom-laced tinderbox of their youth, they do seem to share some marginilization that inspired the punk music scene around the same time. However, they don’t become chagrined to see the underground culture of their invention and youth co-opted and turned into a product of mass culture, which might call into question some of their “political” reads.
The time period of the 1970’s is evoked quite colorfully, perhaps in its largely incidental reference.
All in all, it was fun movie to watch and interesting piece of cultural historical minutiae.