Wednesday, 25 January 2012
SUNDANCE 2012: Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
By Alan Bacchus
Just how many documentaries can Stacy Peralta make about skateboarding? Well, there's plenty of material and stories within the sport to tell. This new picture serves as the ideal continuation of Dogtown and Z-Boys, Peralta's personal chronicling of the sport of skateboarding into the ‘80s and his move from athlete to entrepreneur as manager, mentor and sponsor of a new crop of skating kids, including megastar Tony Hawk.
After Peralta's Zephyr teammates split up in the late ‘70s, he was the only one able to monetize his talents and turn skateboarding into a career profession. Along with skateboard designer George Powell, Peralta formed one of the sport's most successful boarding enterprises, Powell-Peralta. After watching the negative effect of success on his friends, Peralta decided to form a new team of unknown but talented skaters from around the country to compete and promote themselves as professional athletes. From this came the Bones Brigade, which encompassed 40 or so members but featured a core group of five skaters that were influential to the sport in their own unique ways.
First, there's Tony Hawk, the Wayne Gretzky of skateboarding, who, because of his success, became intensely disliked by his competitors; Steve Cabellero, the small but talented acrobatic skater; Mike McGill, the inventor of the McTwist manoeuvre; Lance Mountain, the joker of the bunch, who became a celebrity after starring in Powell-Peralta's first skating video; and Rodney Mullan, the freestyle extraordinaire, whose skills with the board on the ground were unrivaled, but a guy who also suffered from the repression of his disapproving parents.
Peralta admirably tones down the cinematic language compared to his flashy technique in Dogtown and uses a more formal, restrained style reflective of his new position as mentor in this phase of his career, as well as his growing maturity as a filmmaker. Each of his interviews is shot in the same location – a well art-directed skateboard workshop with boards filling the frame from top to bottom. Again, the ingrained culture of self-documentation of skaters means there's a wealth of footage and stills to help visualize his story. Stills, video footage and super-8 footage are combined for a fun time capsule of ‘80s aesthetic.
The prevailing theme that emerges here is the sense of family that Peralta infuses in the kids, which manifests itself in their supremely innovative athletic feats. This contrasts sharply with the painful destruction of compatriots in Dogtown.
As in Dogtown, The Bones Brigade treads on self-aggrandizement, as Peralta himself is a key character in this story - he even interviews himself. But this time he adds the subtitle 'An Autobiography', which kind of prevents us from criticizing the film for any bias. But we should look at these films as personal filmmaking at its best, a superbly entertaining diary of sorts, with maximum flare, energy and exuberance in the prevailing art form of our generation. I also doubt that this is the end of the story, as there are two more decades of skateboarding to examine, something I will certainly welcome with open arms.