A deserved winner at last year's Sundance Film Festival, this spirited, punk-flavoured documentary chronicles the history of the '70s outsiders who pioneered modern skateboarding.
Dogtown was the adopted name of a Santa Monica seaside slum. Situated at the end of Route 66, it bred skate kids with attitude. Before these boys - - and one girl - - came along, skaters stood painfully upright and glided along like English butlers serving tea. Not anymore. These teenagers were surfers who took to wheeled-planks to fill their time between swells, and with them they brought a unique, low-slung style modelled on their surfing heroes. They even scraped their hands along concrete as if it was a wave.
Trawling the area in search of places to skate, the Zephyr Team - - or Z-Boys, as they became known - - took to riding their boards in empty garden pools, doing a runner as soon as the cops arrived. It was they who invented the whole zoom-up-a-slope-and-flip-in-the-air-above-the-rim thing, and it was their taking over of the 1975 national championship that sparked a cultural phenomenon.
Directed by original team member Stacy Peralta, Dogtown And Z-Boys effectively combines vintage skateboarding footage, still photography, new interviews with team members and admirers (including Tony Hawks and Henry Rollins) and laid-back narration from Sean Penn. Okay, so it occasionally gets carried away with stylistic tics and quirks as the filmmakers attempt to translate the Z-Boys' swaggering screw-you stance into cinematic language, but between the dazzling edits there's a proper sense of a story being told.
What's more, Dogtown... is more accessible than most sports documentaries, proving so lively and insightful that it's sure to hook even the most ardent skate-o-phobe. After all, this isn't so much about scrawny kids in baggy clothes as it is about a subculture, an era and a revolutionary movement that grew into a national pastime. Get on board and give it a whirl: it's one hell of a ride.
A swaggering sports documentary that shows you a whole new (under) world. Proof once again that a strong, narrative-driven doc can be more riveting than most features.
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