As with the break dancing kids in Raschick's documentary, the Communist regime tries first to suppress and then to co-opt the skate scene in Persiel's tale, offering the most talented skaters sponsorships, coaching positions, and even a trip to Prague in 1988 to compete in the Euroskate Championships. But despite their best efforts, officials find it impossible to completely repress the tight camaraderie coalescing around the "concrete playground" of East Berlin's Alexanderplatz and the key figures in the scene, including a bleached blonde spitfire named Denis Paraceck, a.k.a. "Panik," whose fearless disdain for authority made him something of a legend among his circle of friends.
Interspersed with present-day scenes — as friends gather together in adulthood to celebrate Panik's memory and reminisce about their skating glory days — and infused with a jubilantly aggressive soundtrack, heavy on the Lars Damm and Claus Grabke, This Ain't California does indeed document a certain emotional truth. It moves beyond mere ostalgie to capture the passionate lust for autonomy that defines adolescent rites of passage everywhere. *
BERLIN AND BEYOND FILM FESTIVAL
Sept. 27-Oct. 4, most shows $10-18
429 Castro, SF
530 Bush, SF