Sundance Review: Bones Brigade (Premier)

I remember being a teenager and going to an old abandoned amusement park on the Jersey Shore that kids anxiously/painstakingly/religiously turned into a skatepark, a palpable love, skateboard tricks and hardcore filled the air as I watched in awe- a glimpse into a cultish skateboard existence that seemed like a microcosm of awesome! So, when I sat in a theater packed with rowdy ass skateboarders waving their boards, singing odes to skate teams and offering up some extra red vine licorice they had in their bag I felt the same vibe from that dirty amusement park and I knew there was something deeper (and awesome) going on!

Bones Brigade was a skate team that began in the 80s ushering in a new era, a next wave of the sport, on the heels of the surf/70s style that California made famous. The indirect core of this documentary/autobiographical film was the masterful marketing of skater/manager Stacy Peralta as he went about creating this well known team. Peralta (director of Dogtown & Z Boys & a member of the Z Boys skate group) saw his own skating career coming to an end so he embarked on a new way to make skating a profitable, recognized sport. He expertly compiled a group of rag tag kids, each bringing their own passion and skill, to use his branded skateboards. He created an image, a feel, countless logos, ads, even the earliest of skate films to define the identity of a modern day skater kid and was able to grow that into a lifelong skill for every member- including the visionary Tony Hawk (whose name I still remember being howled by a digital voice on a skateboard videogame growing up! ). But, this wasn't the most interesting part of the story, the most interesting part of the story was the skater kids themselves (and they were kids, all preteens when they began the team).

The Bones Brigade were sort of the (marketed?) underdog, clean cut riders who revolutionized the way kids skate, literally defining the terms in the modern skate lexicon. I can't really explain the skater's complicated relationships they have with the thing they love, still as adults moved to tears by their passion- so so moving- you just have to see it! The film as a whole was a normal documentary format whose interesting content was decisively edited from hours and hours of skate footage & interviews yet still managing to include everything; the lives, the stories, the sport, the nuance, and even the historical context (the movement from concrete skate parks, to backyard ramp competitions, to freestyle street skating to today's combination of them all)! It really was an intense sweeping survey of a group of people who love what they do and managed to create that into a way of life, for themselves and others,  even in the face of all of life's pressures.

At the end of the film a bunch of original Bones Brigade members, and Stacy Peralta, took to the stage to answer questions. After a brief serenade from a weirdo in the audience, questions rolled in from the skaters I sat amongst. Each question began with a brief history of the inquirer's relationship to skating, an audience created by the subjects of this film all gathered together to celebrate a mutual love! This is what film, and communities in general, can do: bring people together to find & celebrate what they love! And maybe even make a living from it at the same time...nice one Sundance! (top picture of gym turned 500+ seat sold out movie theater and bottom Rodney Mullen, Stacy Peralta and Mike McGill- skaters, lovers, fighters!)



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.