Sometime last year, an artful and amazing indie skate short was rejected by the International Skateboard Film Festival. My friends who made it were philosophical, but I was pissed. What was the point of calling for–and charging for–entries to such an event if it was just going to screen industry-backed skate vids (which receive big-budget premieres anyway)?
So I was motivated to hit up my friend Tim, who programs the Asian American Showcase for FAAIM in Chicago. He liked the piece a lot, and suggested that I assemble an entire program of skate videos. I thought about it and realized that I had other friends with works that had not been seen, realized, or shown in the U.S. This was a good opportunity to help get their work out.
After months of correspondence/hounding via email, the lineup has been finalized and the screenings will take place on Saturday, April 14 at the Gene Siskel Center. Tim asked me to summarize the films for festival purposes, and I thought I’d share them with you, too. What do you think? Any chance we’ll meet in Chicago? Got a screen where you’d like to show it? Let me know!
Even before the Orientalized and seminal Bones Brigade video, The Search for Animal Chin (1987), there has always a strong Asian American presence in skateboarding. Perhaps it’s because the roots are in surfing, which originated from the Pacific Islands. It didn’t hurt to have early rippers like Shogo Kubo, Lester Kasai, and Christian Hosoi leading the way, either.
But Animal Style is dedicated to the modern era and divided in two parts. The first section showcases independent films and shorts made by Asian American skateboarders without financial backing from the action sports industry or the benefit of corporate screenings and festivals. The latter half features skating in Asia by Asians with local twists from Hong Kong and Bangkok. With the exception of Chaiyo, all videos are North American premieres.
The Working Man (USA, 2011, 9 minutes)
In this noir-inspired B&W short, a young rogue has been recruited as a double agent for Madam L. Under the assignment of Agent 009, he faces his first test. It is his only chance to prove that his skills as a skateboarder can be used as a good cover for his future assignments. Armed with a new suit and new gear, he prepares to contend with Downtown Los Angeles and his own mind to successfully complete the mission.
Producers: Thy Mai, Tadashi Suzuki; Directors: Samrod Shenassa, Randal Kirk II, Wing Ko; Director of Photography: Samrod Shenassa; Cast: Tadashi Suzuki
Perfect Time (USA, 2012, 3 minutes)
This extended, extra hyper remix of a short made for a contest held by the Australia-based Penny Skateboard company follows four grown men skating on candy-colored plastic boards through various Downtown L.A. obstacles, landmarks, and locales in search of pizza. A female admirer is left wondering why her boyfriend can’t skate. Includes a cameo by Thrasher’s 1993 Skater of the Year Salman Agah and an original score by the Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown.
Producers: Thy Mai, Tadashi Suzuki; Director: Wing Ko; Directors of Photography: Wing Ko, Pryor Praczukowski; Cast: John Lee, Tadashi Suzuki, John Methvin, Martin Wong, Marthina Sochodolak
The Brotherhood: Chicago – First-Wave Skaters from the Second City (USA, 2012, 30 minutes)
Featuring more than 20 years of the director’s personal and previously unseen skate footage and interviews, this documentary traces the fates of three first-wave skaters from the Second City. Jesse Neuhaus and Stevie Dread were members of the famed Alva team at a time when few skaters from the Midwest cracked the West Coast’s stranglehold on the quickly evolving industry, and skateboard to this day despite their ups and downs in the industry. Also featured is Eric Murphy, a Chicago shredder who shot in and out of the spotlight with equally fast velocity and power.
Producer/Director: Wing Ko; Directors of Photography: Wing Ko, Eric Matthies; Cast: Jesse Neuhaus, Stevie Dread, Eric Murphy
Traveling Sounds (USA, 2011, 17 minutes)
In this one-off video project, pro skater and musician Ray Barbee travels to the surf town of Ventura, CA, to meet Thump Drums maker Andrew “Jenkins” Jones and Xoco Moraza from Rey Fresco. Their personal stories and creative processes are examined and interwoven, and conclude with a jam session featuring the legendary Bones Brigade skater and his new friends.
Producers/Directors/Directors of Photography: Ben Clark, Langdon Taguiped; Cast: Ray Barbee, Andrew “Jenkins” Jones, Xoco Moraza
Skateboarding Is Love (Hong Kong, 2010, 1 minute)
Nigel Ong was one of the first filmmakers to document Hong Kong’s skateboarding scene. His work includes That’s I.T. (2006), a documentary about the much-loved-but-torn-down Immigration Towers skate spot, and Skate First (2009), China and Hong Kong’s first instructional skate video The Skateboarding Is Love series of short videos features locals–including Ong himself–sharing why they love skateboarding.
Producer/Director/Director of Photography: Nigel Ong; Cast: Nigel Ong
Hollieday (Hong Kong, 2011, 30 minutes)
Since the Hong Kong-based 8FIVE2 skate shop was founded in 1999, it has been dedicated to promoting authentic skateboarding culture in the Special Administrative Region of China. Hollieday is the 8FIVE2 crew’s first video, and it shows an international squad of friends ripping up local spots, fostering the skate scene, and generating local pride.
Producer: Julius Brian Siswojo; Directors, Directors of Photography: Piet Guifoyle, Owen Yu; Cast: Chun Chuai, Piet Guifoyle, Chris Bradley, and friends
Chaiyo (Thailand, 2012, 30 minutes)
Chaiyo is the third video by Preduce, Thailand’s first skateboard company. The vibe is inspired by the ‘80s, with a vintage soundtrack and travel footage of the entire Preduce team taken in Thailand, China, and beyond. The title means “celebration” in Thai, and the cheer is used at weddings and other festive times. It refers to Preduce’s tenth anniversary but also shows confidence in better times ahead, as Thailand recovers from 2 years of political unrest and the worst floods in 50 years.
Producers: Simon Pellaux, Guillaume Wyss, Rthit Phannikul; Director: Op Sudasna; Director of Photography: Patrik Wallner; Cast: Geng Jakkarin, Tao Kitpullap, Kyle Brown, Lert Saeri, Leo Anzevui, Ryan Sripaesatja