Dogtown and Z-Boys 

Dogtown and Z-Boys

Dogtown and Z-Boys is a 2001 documentary about the revolutionary Zephyr skating team, hatched in a Venice, CA surf shop. It describes and, through archival footage, illustrates a segment of the seventies surf and skate culture. A large part of the filmís appeal to me is that it blows away the stereotype of the laid-back California surfer. The kids in this film are dedicated, driven, competitive, and territorial, to say nothing of outright gifted. Written and directed by Stacy Peralta, one of the Z-Boys (who also wrote and directed last yearís Riding Giants), the film, narrated by Sean Penn, in addition to exposing a little seen slice of the California experience, has a compelling natural dramatic arc. See it.

I had been meaning to write about this film for some time. I grew up in Northern California, where the beaches are often cloudy, windy, and chilly, and the water is 10 to 15 cooler than in Southern California. The sun-blessed music of the Beach Boys and the beach movies of Frankie and Annette were as relevant to my life as they were to some kid in Des Moines, yet that was the life my cousins in Michigan thought we lived (to be fair, I suspect those songs and movies really didnít do much justice to real life in Southern Cal either). The surfers at Santa Cruz were (and may still be) notoriously territorial, given to fighting kids who came over the hill from the valley who dared surf ďtheirĒ waves. This movie comes closer to depicting the life I knew growing up in California than any other film, book, or music Iíve come across.

The reason I write about this now is because a feature movie based on the documentary is scheduled for release this summer. Called Lords of Dogtown, it stars Heath Ledger, Sofia Vergara, and a host of people Iíve never heard of. It may be good, but Iím not optimistic. See the doc. I saw it on IFC and Iíd be surprised if it doesnít resurface around the time of the feature filmís release. Itís also available at Amazon and, I imagine, at your finer video rental outlets.

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