THIS AIN'T CALIFORNIA deals with skateboarding, relegate it, as I nearly did, to the status of "Are you kidding?" This really hybrid documentary -- from German filmmaker Marten Persiel, who directed and co-wrote it (with Ira Wedel) -- which won the Dialogue en Perspective prize at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival is certainly among the best of this year that I've seen so far (This has been a terrific week for docs, what with The Revolutionary also opening today.) Except, is it really a documentary? Hired actors, recreated "archival" footage, and a main character who may or may not even have existed -- these are just some of the major quibbles brought to the fore after the movie won its Berlinale prize.
Now that I know that Denis (below and further below) may have been either partially or wholly fabricated, I'm a little pissed off. Yet were I to take the film as fiction, I think I would be almost equally as impressed as when I took it for an out-and-out documentary.
The Tunnel, Good-bye Lenin! and The Lives of Others. Along the way, we learn so many telling little details (the role that the movie Beat Street had on collective solidarity of the GDR) that an entire culture is brought to life. Granted, this was a "forced" culture created from a "fake" place: a kind of prison that nonetheless housed real people for several decades. The fact that this maybe "fake" documentary (but very fine film) has emerged from just such a place offers not a little irony -- as well as some great entertainment.