Meeting the Bones Brigade

Ice-T: this is how to make a documentary. In Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, Stacy Peralta explored the evolution of modern skateboarding subculture by profiling the team of young prodigies that he mentored throughout the 80s.

By focusing on just one group, albeit a large and hugely influential group, within the skateboarding world, Peralta made the narrative succinct and immediate. Using old footage and new interviews, Peralta follows the rise and fall and rise again of skateboarding in general and the rise and fall (and rise again, perhaps, via this film and the reformed friendships) of the Bones Brigade itself. He also answers questions including the meaning of skateboarding to participants, how driven prodigies push the sport forward into uncharted territory, and how one balances success in and love for an activity.

I saw this film at the recommendation of a gentleman I sat next to during (I think) 5 Broken Cameras, who placed this film in his top 3 of the festival, along with Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present and Searching for Sugarman. I had no idea who the Bones Brigade was and I was totally surprised by the expectant energy filling the theater. This film was not on my radar whatsoever and I am so, so glad I went. Really, it was fantastic. The narrative was well structured and the interviews were thoughtful and candid and, in my opinion, successfully expressed the heart and soul of the Bones Brigade and the individuals in it. Rodney Mullen was particularly intriguing.

Very sadly, I had to run home just as the Q&A was starting in order to finish a scholarship application. Stacy Peralta and 5 of the 6 skateboarders made it to Salt Lake City (Tony Hawk had a previous engagement in Australia, sadly) and were eager to talk with the first real (non-industry) audience.

This documentary worked much better for me than the previous two I saw, 5 Broken Cameras and Something From Nothing. This is why I love Sundance – I get the opportunity to be exposed to and learn about people, places, and cultures that I would otherwise never know much about.



School and Rap

Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau) was wonderful and just got an Oscar nod for best foreign language film! I thought that the storyline was well put together, following both the trauma and growth of a Montreal school community after the suicide of a teacher and the Algerian substitute (Mohamed Fellag)’s fight to gain asylum. The latter was neatly integrated and was a good way to flesh out the title character’s history. I was impressed by how thoughtful this film was, delving into how to talk about trauma, the fleeting innocence and developing maturity of children, how to be a teacher, what respect and responsibility mean, and more. It was quite lovely. And I did cry at the end.

Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap (Ice-T, Andy Baybutt) was an homage to the founders and leaders of rap. It was interesting to learn about the process of composing and what rap means to the numerous MCs interviewed. Overall, though, it was just mediocre (and long.) There was nothing, or very little, about the current state and future of rap. After seeing Filly Brown, I am intrigued by how rap has been adopted and adapted in other cultures, both in America and abroad. This could be an interesting sequel of sorts.