The Best Films of Summer 2012: 'Bones Brigade: An Autobiography'

A new skateboarding story from the maker of Riding Giants

Steve Caballero     Photo: Grant Brittain

In 2001, Stacy Peralta’s cinema debut, Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary about 1970s skate culture, opened the Sundance Film Festival. It received standing ovations, rave reviews, and the coveted Audience Award for best documentary. The project was perfectly timed, coinciding with the rise of what many have called the documentary age, and it left the previously unknown Peralta well launched. His follow-up, 2004’s surf doc Riding Giants, became an instant classic in the adventure canon. Since then he’s taken forays into social justice (2008’s Crips and Bloods: Made in America) and advertising (a controversial Burger King campaign featuring Inuits devouring Whoppers). Now Peralta has decided to return to skating with Bones Brigade: An Autobiography, which picks up where Dogtown left off, telling the story of Tony Hawk and company as they transition from skate punks to businessmen. You’d be forgiven for thinking Peralta is just going back to the well, but this is much more than an encore. 

The film is set in the early 1980s, when Peralta has joined forces with skateboard designer George Powell to form the Powell-Peralta skateboard company. Peralta scours the country in search of unknown skaters to serve as the face of his brand. That core group—Tony Hawk, Lance Mountain, Rodney Mullen, Steve Caballero, Mike McGill, and Tommy Guerrero—is dubbed the Bones Brigade. Peralta is a bighearted coach and den father, building an ace team that “pioneered the way to make money in skateboarding,” according to Mountain. He was also, even then, a hell of a documentarian, judging from the exhaustive archival footage. There are shots to accompany every story and milestone, from Mullen’s legendary freestyle sessions to McGill’s first 540-degree aerial McTwist. Bones Brigade is full of stirring moments—Mullen briefly quits skating because his father forbids it, Hawk momentarily caves from the pressure of success. Downward spirals are averted, though, and as Peralta interviews everyone in the present, it’s gratifying to see what well-adjusted adults these punks turned out to be. Their humble reminiscing never grows dull. Bones Brigade is a more personal documentary than Dogtown, which was ultimately a cautionary tale about the toxicity of fame and fortune. In Dogtown, the brotherhood crumbles. Here it prevails. In theaters: late summer

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