Directed by Stacy Peralta, featuring the members of the Zephyr Skateboard Team, Skip Engblom, Jeff Ho, Henry Rollins and Jeff Ament.
In 1950s America, skateboarding was one of many flavour-of-the-month pastimes enjoyed by the youth of the day. Weaving around courses constructed of traffic cones proved popular until superseded by the roller-skate and the hula-hoop. In 1970s America, it was actually very difficult to buy a board because this rather innocuous sport had become such an anathema. Well, at least until the Zephyr Boys showed up.
A group of eleven boys and one girl from a tough Santa Monica neighbourhood shared a common background of family dysfunction and a love of spending their days on Venice Beach surfing the waves. Their desire to transfer their brand of aquatic acrobatics to terra firma lead them to build their own surf boards and resurrect – and completely transform – an all but dead sport.
Stacy Peralta was one of the original Z-Boys and using old footage and photographs, he brings to life the genesis of X-games skate-boarding as we know it today. From hill rolling to creating their own paper tunnels, the Z-Boys progressed to emptying swimming pools in search of the ultimate 'vert' (vertical skate jump). While their influence on modern skate-stylistics and technique is unmistakable, Peralta refrains from fawning and tells it like it is using old footage alongside past and present-day interviews with the original crew.
If skateboarding doesn't float your boat, this film is still an excellent anthropological snapshot of a certain time, place and way of life. From the lazy surf days of Venice to the beginnings of competitive skating, it's a dazzling display of determination and skill based on a shared sense of danger.
The isolation of a poor neighbourhood united the crew under the multi-cultural banner of the Z-Boys thanks to founders Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom. They had no political or ethnic agenda – just a love of skating and dramatic impact. Without realising it, they created something huge and influenced the generation of Henry Rollins, Fugazi's Ian McKaye and Sean Penn (the former two appear on camera, the latter narrates the entire documentary). With an average age of 14 at the time, it is also fascinating to see what each member has made of their lives. 'Dogtown…' is an exuberant account of a bygone cultural coda that perfectly captures the essence of youth and aspiration.