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film review

This Ain’t California

The sign of a great documentary is being able to tell an epic story, such as the fall of Communism, in a simple, very human narrative. And that's what Marten Persiel has done in this moving look at a group of skateboarding friends from 1980s East Germany. The 2011 death of the group's ringleader, Denis Paracek, is an opportunity for the skateboarders – now in their 40s – to reminisce (with the help of brilliant archival footage) about their friend and that time of dramatic change. "Skating was liberation," as one friend puts it, yet unlike simply rebelling against their parents – as counterparts in California were doing – the East German youth were rebelling against a corrupt system. The authorities took the threat seriously, as one archival clip proves: "Skateboarding," intones the announcer on a state-run broadcast, "creates an amorality, skepticism and egocentric individualism that we do not need in our socialist collectives."

Oct. 2, 6:45 pm, Pacific Cinematheque; Oct. 3, 1:30 pm Pacific Cinematheque

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