Welcome To Sundance: 'Bones Brigade, An Autobiography'
Last night we grabbed our commuter decks and shredded our way down to the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center for the Sundance Film Festival screening of Stacy Peralta’s Bones Brigade: An Autobiography. In case you’re not aware, Bones Brigade was a ragtag collection of misfit skaters that managed to forever change the way people ride back in the eighties. Sponsored by Powell Peralta, the team featured kids who would later become some of the biggest names in skateboarding: Steve Cabellaro, Mike McGill, Rodney Mullin, Lance Mountain, Tommy Guerrero and Tony Hawk.
Having grown up on a skateboard, I was interested to see what the film would touch upon, and if they were going to talk about my favorite skater, Duane Peters. It was cold and icy night out on the streets, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to get to the theater than the cruiser deck I usually use for getting to dive bars in Green Point. When I got to the theater, I was instantly struck by all the guys with tattoos and beards in the audience. It was a strange mix of older ex-skater kids and film nerds. Adults in Thrasher hoodies sat comfortably next to old rich festival goers who had never stood on a deck in their life.
In The Beginning
The film is built out of confessional interviews spliced with a compilation of old photos and home video clips that captured the Bones Brigade radically shifting skateboarding one trick at a time. Since these young skaters had no rules to follow, they got to make everything up as they went along.
Director Stacy Peralta, whose movie Dogtown and Z-Boys previously won an Audience Award at Sundance, originally started the team back in 1979 after the demise of his own professional skating career. His self documented autobiography tells the story of a group of unknown pre-pubescent skaters handpicked to ride for Bones Brigade and following them as they grow up alongside the evolution of their sport. The Bones Brigade team was built around a feeling of collaborative competition. It was a collection of kids pushing themselves up to the top together by having fun and constantly finding new ways to one-up each other. Although the members each had their own individual styles and wide reaching backgrounds, they were all connected through one common passion — riding a wooden board on wheels as expressively as possible.
From the looks of it, the process was both incredibly fun and often quite miserable, with parents threatening to intervene in their kid’s lives in an effort to make them responsible members of society. In particular, the film shows a very awkward Rodney Mullin trying to deal with a domineering father, forcing the teen to skate out of “controlled desperation.”
Reunited and It Feels So Good
After Bones Brigade broke up with the dissolution of Powel Peralta in 1991, the skaters all went on to achieve commercial success both inside and outside of skateboarding. During the Q & A session, Peralta talked about how the team (minus Tony Hawk, who was stuck somewhere in Australia) hadn’t been together in the same house for over twenty years. There they stood, beaming up on the stage, laughing about how they were all just super stoked to be there. It was a reminder of what I liked about skateboarding so much, cruising around with your friends, trying not to fall on your face and having a blast just being alive.
— Mike Abu