If you think your hometown has got a bitchin' skate park near you I've got some Sobering news for you. Unless you live near Skatopia your local facility probably isn't as cool as you think it its. I'm not really sure about the size of the skateboarding areas within Skatopia. But with ever growing facilities, even over the course of filming, it felt immense. And the lack of adult supervision gives the area a sense of being a hardcore skating wonderland.
One of the characters of the film is the titled '88 acres of anarchy.' The other main one is Brewce Martin, the leader of the compound and its self appointed king. He's a 40 year old skate anarchist dictator with a self admitted anger management problem. Yes, I realize dictator and anarchy are mutually exclusive, but just roll with it for now... It's his land the park is built on and therefore everyone lives by his rules. Early on he explains his role pretty succinctly "Everyone needs a leader. Whether its Genghis Khan or Jim Jones. I've always been the leader". Rounding out the cast of characters are his teenage son, his long suffering (Brewce likes the ladies) significantly younger looking girlfriend, and various skaters who pass through the compound trading work time for a place to be.
The film does a good job tracing back through Brewce's childhood, some early motivations and who they led to the park as well as the day to day challenges of running things. There are scattered looks at some of the economics of the community built on their seriously non-poseur brand (such as a maybe not too successful shoe business) and some crazy parties. But it still felt as though there was some info missing. As it was hard for me to reconcile how Brewce kept things above water at all from the activities they were engaged in. There are minor peeks at the outside world and how it sees the skate park. As presented the chaos seems tolerated by the community. As one local business observes, "Once you cross their property line it's not our business as long as no one is getting hurt. "
The picture is filled with memorable moments. From group construction of massive concrete skate facilities to wild parties. When I write wild parties I mean drinking, dancing, fireworks, guns, and destruction of cars. Not to mention a plethora of unusual bands. Including one clad mostly in not so artfully hung dildoes on overweight naked bodies hammering out lyrics such as "Everything's a dollar in the dollar store. Everything's a dollar in the dollar store. Well how come dollar stores don't sell whores?". Yes, I stopped the film to jot that down accurately. Surprisingly catchy.
Skatopia comes across as a personal injury lawyers wet dream. I'm sure it would be if Brewce wasn't effectively judgment proof due to his constant financial problems. My point is that it's a miracle no one died on site over the course of filming. Sorry for the spoiler there.
The film works best if viewed as an homage to the backstory of extreme skate videos. And less well if you're expecting a deeper message pushed in your face. The style is observational combined with lots of footage of
I haven't had a chance to watch the DVD's included commentary track all the way through - though that seems especially interesting. I did catch though that filmmakers explaining how they lived near Skatopia for a year or so to make the film. That level of immersion shows as they follow Brewce and his
Skatopia is available for purchase at Amazon.com yet sadly not yet on Netflix. I hope that's just an oversight and not another warning sign about Netflix's commitment to supporting long tail projects.