Awhile back I wrote about Marten Persiel’s “This Ain’t California,” the Berlinale-winning “punk fairytale” about skateboarding in East Germany that caused a bit of a stir overseas for its liberal use of staged reenactments. Regardless of the controversy, Persiel’s film is like nothing I’ve seen in recent years, the closest comparison probably being Grant Gee’s 2007 Joy Division (written by Jon Savage), which employs a collage of images to conjure up the Manchester atmosphere during that music scene’s heyday. In fact, Manchester and East Berlin shared a similar aesthetic in the ’70s and ’80s, composed of drab grey buildings and cold concrete, out of which an artistic community counter-intuitively blossomed like flowers springing from pavement cracks. Communism might not have ruled Thatcher’s England, but the sense of hopelessness that originally birthed the Sex Pistols’ “No Future” is the same that propelled the GDR’s skater culture. And as someone who grew up punk in small town Colorado during the Reagan days, “This Ain’t California” is my story as well. Ich bin ein Californian.
I spoke with the German director prior to the film’s U.S. theatrical premiere at the Maysles Cinema on April 12th. To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.