Dragonslayer: Skate Documentary
While the majority skateboarding documentaries these days tend to regress into boring sit-down interviews and pseudo-academic narratives, Tristan Patterson comes along with an honest, unapologetic portrayal of the scene with Dragonslayer. The movie follows the life and career of skateboarder Josh ‘Skreech’ Sandoval for an entire year, documenting his struggle to balance his love for skateboarding and the relentless demands of the real world.
Dragonslayer's cinematography is superbly executed for a low-budget documentary. Even scenes situated in the most dystopic environs such as decrepit houses and graffiti-laden skate bowls bathe in ambrosial colors.
The documentary effectively establishes different moods by giving the viewers two distinct visual perspectives: a crisp third-person vantage point through Patterson’s high-definition camera (which loses focus from time to time), while Skreech, often incoherent and inebriated, provides a disorienting gonzo vantage point through his own grainy lo-def camcorder.
Skreech is a single father, a drug addict—and for better or worse—a skateboarder. He can be such a polarizing character, yet this movie has an allure tantamount to watching a spectacular car wreck unfold. Paradoxically, everything that he does (or fails to do) generates enough intrigue to make you stay glued to the screen, wondering if he gets to walk away unscathed from it all in the end.
There's something truly genuine about this movie that most documentaries tend to lose or forget.
Patterson portrays the skate culture for what it is without any embellishments. In a way, he even cautions the audience that the type of freedom punk ethos endows has its own limitations.
Dragonslayer is not only a portrait of one person, but it also provides a riveting picture of America's disenfranchised youth as a whole. Punctuated by the visually powerful energy of radical skateboarding and the occasional display of (literal) fireworks, the movie is remorseless in exposing the excesses as well as all the frustrations of alienated young Americans.
The movie reveals some ugly scars and open wounds behind the media-glorified facade of skateboarding subculture. It provides the viewers a fair amount of impressive bowl skating from Skreech and his friends. Nevertheless, it's not a run-of-the-mill skate porn intended to brainwash the consumer with the skateboard industry's brand of bad and cool.
Skreech does not romanticize the skater punk lifestyle. His strengths and flaws are excruciatingly real, it gives Dragonslayer the kind of authenticity warranted in a self-respecting counter-cultural film. Skreech's life and Patterson's visual execution pulls the heartstrings in ways you wouldn't expect, especially from a movie that initially appears to be about a hopeless character.