Skatboarding in the GDR – A documentary about the underground scene in the former East Germany
Freedom, rock’n’roll and blatant tricks: This is skateboarding. Cake boards with wheels, stolen park benches as ramps and fleeing police – that was skateboarding in the GDR. Young people such as Marco Sladek and Torsten Schubert nevertheless created the impossible – an east-skater scene.
Skating and socialism, that don’t fit together. Skatboarding have always been synonymous with freedom, rebellion and self-determination, and don’t fit into a state that is trying to force any movements of its citizens in a corset of rules.
The film also portrays not dogged struggle against the state, but the normality of everyday life, curiously using the really unusual motif of skating. “This Is not California” defends the value of lived life, stands up with its colorfulness and playfulness to the usual uniform gray in the representation of East German relations and provides almost incidentally also a melancholy love letter to a relatively carefree youth
Skateboarding was a hip, modern, fun sport without rules – the total opposite of the stiff system of the GDR. The movie shows that the skater subculture wasn’t at all grey-on-grey and drab clouds of Trabant fumes. This Wildfremd production (Ronald Vietz & Michael Schöbel) by director Martin Persiel takes original clips of the “wheel-board-riders” – straight out of the East German scene in the 80s – and mixes it with animations and reencounters with the protagonists today. It is not just a well thought out story on its own – this film also raises the aesthetic bar.
“Skating as freedom” is one of the leitmotifs of this film. Skating “without pressure to be better than someone else,” as one of the main characters puts it, became the goal in hindsight, or, said downright harshly, “the desire for freedom turned lifestyle”.
The documentary from 2012 shows its three heroes from their childhood in the seventies through their teenage rebellion in the eighties, ending in the last summer of their life in the German Democratic Republic in 1989, when their life changed forever, and follows them to 2011.