Loud, obnoxious, vibrant: This Ain’t California.
Summary (From IMDb):
This Ain’t California is a celebration of the lust for life, a contemporary documentary trip into the world of roller boarding in the German Democratic Republic. A coming-of-age tale of three teenagers and their passionate love for a sport on the crumbling tarmac of the streets in the German Democratic Republic, which was considered very ill-fitting. The punk fairy tale is a story of the subversive powers of fun in that part of Germany, which had lost touch with its citizens. The film follows its three heroes from their childhood in the seventies through their teenage rebellion in the eighties, ending in the last summer of their life in the German Democratic Republic in 1989, when their life changed forever, and follows them to 2011
This Ain’t California is definitely one of the most visually creative film i’ve ever seen. Utilizing combination of b/w animated sequence, photographic stills, super 8 style camera, 35mm camera, re-enactments and even the clean digital one. These mixes help delivers the feel of authenticity of the era as well as putting the emphasis of the documentarian style. The genre itself can be categorized as docufiction, as it tried to capture the skateboarding culture of 80s East German youth through the story of a fictional legend of Denis “Panik” Paraceck (portrayed by German male model, Kai Hillebrand).
Told in an a form of flashback, several friends of Panik gather for his memorial service and re-tell their memories of their lives two decades ago. Divided into 7 chapters, the film introduce us to the culture of German Democratic Republic or East German youth, where three best friend grow up playing with their home made skate board. It introduces us to the vibrant underground scene of the 80s, where punk, hip-hop, breakdance, and skateboard sub culture started to take over the concrete of Alexanderplatz. The youthful energy was so effervescent, the youth made the city their concrete playground, rebelling against the majority and norms. It all happening against the segregation of East German vs West German in the form of Berlin Wall, just few years before the reunification of Germany.
I think the style of the film alone deserve a lot of credits. While there are several genuine archival material, Director Marten Persiel must’ve done a lot of work to edit and re-create these documentary style footage by using several media. And it achieve the level of genuineness and have movie goers that is not familiar with the subject (the politic of german and the skateboarding subculture) believe in what the movie tried to deliver. This Ain’t California definitely have a flair of style, but it also deliver a touching story with its own humour. The political backdrop manage to enrich the story without being condemned by the film itself, but merely being poked at for its absurdity (the germina skateboard!). The atmosphere of the era is enriched by soundtrack choices that comes from the 70s-80s german artists of various genre. Panik along with several other character that become a tapestry of the film, were being familiarize only through montages of photographs and videos footages, become more fleshed out through interviews and recollection of others. I think being able to fleshed out these character alone is actually a work of genius!
For the duration of 96 minutes of the film I can’t help but to be blown away, even after the credits roll and all i want is to re-watch this movie several more times. Sadly, the film also a source of controversy for using the word documentary in its genre description as well as criticized for its exaggeration, inaccuracy, etc, etc. But aside from the negative jabs, as a movie buff i appreciate the film as a film anyway. Its a dazzling creation that deserve props for its craft and ingenuity. It gave a sense of wonder, and for a moment there, i feel like i’m just one of the kids who wants nothing but to play in the concrete playground of Alexanderplatz.
“Give a kid something that rolls, put him into a world of concrete, and he’ll come up with the same idea”
Like Panik, the film is deliriously fast paced, deliciously alive and vibrant. This Ain’t California is a part myth, part documentary, but all over awesome tale of german Rollbrettfahrer (skateboarders) subculture. It’s a fresh take of storytelling that engage audience through its visual and emotional crafts. You’ll crave it, in repeated viewings :)
This Ain’t California is the winner of Dialogue en Perspective category at 2012 Berlinale, Best Documentary at 2012 Cannes Independent Film Festival, Special Jury Prize for achievement in Directing at 2012 Nashville Film Festival, and many others.
THIS AIN’T CALIFORNIA (2012)
GENRE Dockumentary, Biopic, Fiction
DIRECTOR Marten Persiel | PRODUCER Ronald Vietz, Michael Schöbel | WRITER Marten Persiel, Ira Wedel | MUSIC Lars Dam | CINEMATOGRAPHER Felix Leiberg | EDITOR Toni Froschhammer, Maxine Goedicke, Bobby Good | STUDIO Wildfremd production | DISTRIBUTOR Farbfilm Verleih | COUNTRY Germany | RUNNING TIME 96 minutes | RATING FSK 12 (for 12 years old and up) | RELEASE August 14, 2012
STARRING Kai Hildebrand, David Nathan, Anneke Schwabe
Read the interview with Marten Persiel about the film at Goethe Institut.
This film was screened at 2013 German Cinema Film Festival. Courtesy of Goethe Institute.