Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff | November 18th
As we shuffled into Chapter’s cinema on a chilly Sunday afternoon, the last thing we expected, despite attending a documentary about skateboarding, was to become the recipient of a brand new artist-customized board. But that said, we weren’t expecting to cry at a documentary about skateboarding either. Maybe we’re stricken by winter shell shock, or maybe we’re just getting soft, but there’s something a bit special about Stacy Peralta’s latest filmic addition.
Bones Brigade: An Autobiography was showcased at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff as part of the 4th annual Soundtrack Festival in the capital, and as far as soundtracks go it didn’t disappoint. Following Peralta’s classic style – sharp interviews pliced with grainy footage – the stellar soundtrack flips between melodic soft electric guitar and adrenaline-pumping 80s punk anthems.
The film focuses on the formation of a group of skateboarding misfits headed up by former board legend Stacy Peralta, who through a combination of fierce passion, groundbreaking skills and progressive marketing became the most popular skate team in history. Interviews shot in a board-clad garage somewhere in California focus mainly on the most prominent Bones Brigade members: Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Mike McGill, Launce Mountain and Tommy Guerrero. Each chosen by the business collaboration Powell-Peralta not for their winning streaks in skate competitions, but their unwavering passion for the sport they felt defined them.
Spread over a decade, we witness their rise to fame, the camaraderie between the group and the adoration for mentor and father figure Peralta, but also the painfully shattering moments for some when fame, success or simply boarding itself becomes too much to handle. Mullen’s testing relationship with his father gives his convoluted interviews clarity, while Lance Mountain’s crushing feelings of unworthiness clash beautifully with his performance as the team clown in The Bones Brigade Video Show. With each interview it feels as though we are privy to the kind of personal reveal you’d save for your nearest and dearest, or in Mullen’s case his therapist, and it brings on the tears.
Fans of Peralta’s previous documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys will note obvious comparisons between Peralta and Hawk during their rise to fame; robotic moves and “way too much padding” made the two unpopular with the crowds despite their obvious trophy-winning talent. They were also both shrewd businessmen, which lead to their independent accomplishments in the industry – success which apparently Tony Alva and others from Peralta’s generation couldn’t harness in the same way. Snippets of interviews with Alva and co add a humorous element, as none of the 70s skate legends seem able to comprehend how a group of “fucking boy scouts” could make it so big.
The achievement probably had a lot to do with the team’s controversial-but-genius art director Craig Stecyk who makes sporadic appearances throughout the film, talking largely in riddles, much to the amusement of the audience. “I would love to be able to tell you I’m wearing woman’s underwear”, says Stecyk between anecdotes about burning-out cars and dead dog photo shoots. “And I don’t know why I’m wearing woman’s underwear, but I’m not.”
The strength of Peralta’s latest film is its ability to delve deeper than his previous; the team’s passion for their art is both devastating and electric, but what works so well for with this offering is how it connects with its audience. Leaving the cinema we feel, despite having never ridden a skateboard, that we desperately want to try out our new one.
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Words: Emilee Jane Tombs