SXSW FILM 2011
By Don Simpson | March 20, 2011
Director: Tristan Patterson
Not to be confused with Ain’t It Cool News’ lackluster 15th Anniversary screening of Matthew Robbins’ Dragonslayer from 1981, Tristan Patterson’s documentary is about skateboarding, relationships and getting totally fucked up. Sounds totally more awesome than that AICN screening, right? Well, it kind of is.
Josh “Skreech” Sandoval is the textbook definition of odd. Unique in the best and worst possible ways, Sandoval seems to communicate and function on a wavelength that is unfathomable to any other human beings. His priorities are rarely rational; sometimes Sandoval’s life focuses on finding the perfect abandoned pool to skate, while other times it revolves solely around getting blitzed out of his gourd. It becomes increasingly clear that Sandoval experiences his life solely in the present as he uses drugs and booze to effectively erase his past and negate any cares about his future. Professional skateboarding sponsorships may come and go, but Sandoval is too carefree and numb to muster up enough emotion to give a rat’s ass. (The only time we become aware of Sandoval’s emotions is when he explains that he stops skating whenever he becomes depressed.) It is more important for Sandoval to live life (he seemingly abides by the motto, live stoned and die young) with the least possible funds and possessions. (Sandoval spends a significant portion of DRAGONSLAYER squatting in a tent in a friend’s backyard.)
Come to think of it, Sandoval is somewhat reminiscent of one of those eternally fucked up teenagers from Harmony Korine’s cinematic cannon, but he happens to be one who occasionally reveals a somewhat sympathetic side. Even though Sandoval’s life is constantly on the verge of a massive wipe out, it is difficult not to like him—but only just a little bit. Sandoval does seem to truly like his girlfriend Leslie (though their relationship seems uncommunicative and somewhat asexual, or at least kept private from Patterson’s camera) and his excitement over spending his first day out with his child, Sid Rocket, is pretty darn cute, that is until he cannot figure out how to open the baby stroller, a reminder that Sandoval is a pretty fucked up dad.
How much could Sid really matter to Sandoval if they never spend any father-son time together? Is Sandoval purposely staying out of Sid’s life so that he does not become a negative influence on his tyke’s upbringing? (Sandoval does confess that he left Sid’s mother because he did not want Sid to grow up in a house with two constantly quarreling parents.) And forget about the “SK8 or die!” mantra, because even skateboarding (something he can excel at) does not matter to Sandoval as much as maintaining a steady diet of pills, pot and booze.
Patterson’s documentary makes no attempt to cast any judgments about Sandoval; he merely provides us with a countdown of events for the audience to make their own determinations. This is (dare I say) the genius of Patterson’s film: Sure his directorial perspective has chosen ten distinct moments in Sandoval’s life, but the images remain uncannily free of directorial opinions. (I also believe that Sandoval is too zonked out to be influenced by the presence of the film cameras; his actions seem perfectly natural and instinctual for him.) Sandoval’s lifestyle is never glorified by Patterson, but is not necessarily condemned either; that said, I suspect most sane audience members will walk away from DRAGONSLAYER scared shitless that Sandoval is not quite as unique as we might hope. What would you do if your teenage daughter started dating someone like Sandoval? (That is probably slightly more frightening to parents than having one’s son turn out like Sandoval.)
Photographed by Eric Koretz and Sandoval (who was provided with a Flip camera to capture footage while the director and his crew were not present), DRAGONSLAYER is one of the most beautifully shot and edited films about skateboarding culture that I have ever seen. (I skated for over 15 years and have watched a ton of skateboarding videos in my lifetime.) DRAGONSLAYER won the Best Documentary Feature and Best Cinematography awards at SXSW 2011.
Also be sure to check out:
— Don’s Favorite Documentary Films of 2011 (Dragonslayer ranked #5)
— Exclusive Dragonslayer Footage only on Smells Like Screen Spirit
— Our Dragonslayer giveaway, including an Addikt Skateboard Deck