'Dragonslayer' looks at lost youth

Dragonslayer

Dragonslayer

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:20 PM ET

Everything you need to know about the decline of Western civilization is available in Dragonslayer, an indie documentary about a skateboarder in California.

The film is centred on Josh "Skreech" Sandoval, a bit of a legend living in Fullerton, Calif. In his early 20s, Skreech is essentially homeless, moving around the neighbourhood as he and his buddies seek out empty swimming pools in which to perform their breathtaking skateboard moves. There are a lot of empty swimming pools in this part of California, and a lot of houses with nobody living in them. Welcome to the recession.

Skreech narrates many of the details about his life in this verite film outing. He hints at the 'hazardous environment' that was his childhood, gets stoned or drunk a lot, talks about the depression that stopped his skateboard career for a while.

He has a girlfriend. He also has an infant son named Sid from another relationship. Sweet-natured, well intentioned and obviously intelligent, Skreech celebrates taking his son out alone, for the first time ever, in this film. His concern for the baby is heartbreaking.

Skreech likes to travel, not an unusual pursuit for an essentially rootless kid. He goes to Copenhagen to check the skate scene there. He travels as much as possible, talking about his affection for Portland, visiting Arizona with his girlfriend. While he skates and drinks and moves around, his story slowly gets told. A chance phone call from his mother turns out to be his first communication with her in six months. We visit the apartment where he lived all through middle school. Here's the tent he lives in now, in a friend's back yard. Small details speak volumes; what he and his girlfriend eat is a sort of guide to a particular form of physical and cultural poverty.

Dragonslayer is wonderfully shot, all speed and grimy authenticity. Here is sunny California, just like the Beach Boys said it would be, only without any money, future prospects or hope. You can see why these guys live to fly around empty pools on their skateboards.

Dragonslayer is an amazing window into a particular part of the culture and how we live now. You'll think about Skreech -- his father's day gift for his son, his new job at a bowling alley -- for a long time after you leave the theatre.

Dragonslayer was named Best International Feature at Hot Docs this year, and was also the Grand Jury Prize Winner for best documentary at SXSW.

In Toronto, it's playing at the Royal Theatre.

(This film is rated 14A)


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