An exhilarating account of how the Zephyr Skating team changed skateboarding forever, Dogtown and Z-Boys finally opens at Dobie on Friday; in a summer of some truly great movies, it's a ripping piece of street storytelling not to be missed, even if you don't care about the sport.
By Louis Black, Fri., May 31, 2002
All this is the long way of getting around to plugging one of the best movies I saw last year. Dogtown and Z-Boys, which finally opens in Austin at the Dobie on Friday, is a most powerful and entertaining document of popular culture. Dogtown was the name for a run-down section of Santa Monica and Venice where the Zephyr Team came together, changing skateboarding forever. Adapting surfing techniques and style to skateboarding, this gang of wild young renegades, mostly from broken homes, changed the sport forever. Hell, they took a bourgeois pastime and made it a sport. If you love skateboarding, you're probably waiting for this film, but even if you don't care about the sport, this is a documentary to check out. The most incredible part is that so much of the story was captured on film at the time. This doesn't just tell you the story -- it shows you.
It is absolutely exhilarating to not just hear about the Z-Boys' stunning debut at the 1975 Bahne-Cadillac Skateboard Championship, where they turned the sport on its head (literally), but to see the footage of it. The moment of cultural transformation is so often the stuff of verbal myth and distorted memory that to watch as it actually unfolds is a privilege. The film is an amazing rags-to-riches tale of the vitality of the culture, with the Z-Boys spinning off to national success after their startling debut. The original ethos and camaraderie begin to dissipate with fame and money. Then comes a remarkable period where, after the success, they reunite to spend a summer skating together. The film ends with an unfortunate coda that looks closely at the careers of Jay Adams and Tony Alva, a little too much for a non-skater audience member, although I imagine skater fans would be happy with even more (one of them got rich and the other ends up in jail, but for more details, you'll have to see for yourself).
I'm so afraid that I'm drowning this ripping piece of street storytelling in the dullest language. We saw it at Sundance and had no idea what to expect. Afterward, we were giddy. I don't think a week has gone by in the year and a half since that I haven't thought about this film. Ignore the critics (unless they get it), overcome any resistance you might have to the topic -- this is a very special film. See this film: The story of the Z-Boys and the Zephyr Surf Shop, told with so much archival footage and contemporary interviews, is a lyrical cultural history that is vital and exciting. They make it up before your eyes and then push the limits again and again. And they were just having fun; they didn't know they were making history.