Film Review: This Ain’t California

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It may have a vague title (…most skate scenes are not California), but This Ain’t California is a detailed pseudo-documentary about a crossroads of recent world history and lesser-known local skate lore.

Marten Persiel’s tale centers around Denis “Panik” Paraceck and his 1980s skate crew in the German Democratic Republic, the portion of Germany that was a Soviet satellite state until 1990. The story is told through Panik’s friends as they gather to reminisce in 2011 upon learning he was killed as a soldier in Afghanistan. This Ain’t California is seemingly presented as fact through old footage, modern interviews and animation sequences, but the viewer suspects the main character may not have existed early on in the film, due to “archival” footage that is a bit too-good-to-be-true, and several obviously scripted moments. Some Googling will reveal that the character of Panik is played by German model and skater, Kai Hillebrandt, and that the film is a blend of both reenactments and real home movies.

Though Panik is fictionalized, he is a composite character found in any skate crew out there — the hometown hero who will try the gnarliest trick to further his legend, who could be good at just about anything but chooses to skate, often to the chagrin of parents. (Even superficially, one would think the actor’s resemblance to Natas Kaupas was part of the casting decision.) Denis Paraceck may not be real, but every skater knows someone like him.

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