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Dogtown And Z Boys

Back in the early 1970s, nobody cool surfed or rode skateboards--except the rebellious, unruly, hardcore kids carving the sidewalks of Dogtown, a run-down beach community ''where the debris meets the sea'' in Venice, Calif. This documentary chronicles the short life of Dogtown's wild Z-Boys with interviews and archival footage.


With a boardwalk bustling with tourists and an influx of Hollywood wannabes driving up the cost of beachfront property, Venice, Calif., today bears scant resemblance to the Venice of the '70s. The urban beach ghetto between Santa Monica and Venice known as Dogtown was as dilapidated as it could get, and its outlaw inhabitants were as wild and rough as the waves they rode through the ruined timbers of the burned-down Santa Monica pier. Whatever the trends and styles of the times dictated, the kids of Dogtown rejected, which was exactly why they surfed and skateboarded at a time when society identified surfing with hippie dropouts and the skateboard ranked on par with the hula hoop and the yo-yo. Yet here was where skateboarding was reborn to become the multimillion-dollar industry it is today, thanks to Venice locals Jeff Ho and Skip Engblom (surf shop owners) and Craig Stecyk (a photojournalist/skater), who organized a group of ethnically diverse, latchkey Dogtown kids into the Zephyr Skating Team. Known as the Z-Boys, the group unintentionally took skating to a whole new level--with nothing better to do than ride their boards in abandoned pools and parking lots, the Z-Boys brought their low-slung, fluid surfing style to the street to revolutionize a sport that had been stuck in the 1960s. When they began competing against the old pros who were still doing upright moves, handstands and wheelies, the Z-Boys' never-before-seen techniques exploded the scene and made them international teen superstars. Some of them, like Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta, handled fame with aplomb--others, like Jay Adams (presently in jail), found it too much too soon.


Who better to direct this movie on the Z-Boys but one of their peers, Stacy Peralta? One of the founding fathers of modern skateboarding, Peralta capitalized on his early success and went on to serve as second unit director on skate movies such as Gleaming the Cube and Thrashin'. He and producer Agi Orsi decided to make the documentary after Spin magazine published an article on the legend of the Z-Boys and Peralta received numerous calls from studios wanting to buy his life story. Though he'd thought about making a Z-Boys movie already, Peralta was determined that it would reflect the pure, hard tradition of the Dogtown culture rather than a watered down Hollywood version. He developed the docu with financing provided by Vans Inc. and tracked down and interviewed all the original skaters but one. The movie weaves those interviews with a mishmash of old photos and articles, archival video footage, interviews with people like Henry Rollins and Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament; the soundtrack features the likes of Black Sabbath, The Stooges, Alice Cooper and Neil Young; and Sean Penn narrates. Put it all together, and you've got a flick that's cool as f***.

Bottom Line

You don't have to be a skateboarder to enjoy this old-school documentary.