December 5, 2013 5:59 pm

Review: This Ain’t California

A documentary about skateboarding East Germans – or is it?
'This Ain't California'

'This Ain't California'

In This Ain’t California, this ain’t East Berlin either. Or so director Martin Persiel confessed at a Q&A, when audiences queried the authenticity of his “documentary” – a peppy collage of interviews, skating montages and supposed archive footage – about skateboarding Easties defying communism before the Wall’s fall. Rebel subculture behind the Iron Curtain! Punk street ballets! And the fantastic figure of “Panic”, the bleached blond skater who gave the finger to the Stasi and triumphed in rogue contests from Berlin to Prague.

Yes, well. Apparently it’s all a stitch-together of fact and fiction, with Panic played by German model Kai Hillebrand. Hoaxumentaries have an honourable history. (Citizen Kane itself is a giant essay in cod nonfiction). But fooling an audience should surely be done with honest and open mischief, not with sheepish postscripts from film-makers hoping we might have been hornswoggled.

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Nigel Andrews


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