The past few years have been a golden age for the documentary. With Werner Herzog working at a crazy clip, and other films like The Lottery, Exit Through The Gift Shop, and the best of them all, Inside Job, taking on anything and everything from education to the world’s financial crisis, documentaries have been at an all time high. And now it’s the punks turn.
Tristan Patterson’s latest film, Dragonslayer, hopes to turn the world onto not only the life of its lead, but the world of skateboarding, through the story of one Josh ‘Skreech’ Sandoval. Professional skateboarder by day, dead beat father by night, Dragonslayer follows Josh as he not only comes to grips with his growth from slacker punk to true-blue father material, but also manhood in general, and is one of the most emotionally moving and haunting bits of documentary filmmaking in years.
Dragonslayer’s greatest attribute comes in its filmmaking. Patterson gives us a breath of fresh air with this film, a cinema verite documentary that doesn’t rely on talking heads, but instead gives the viewer a pure sense of this world and who lives in it, something very few of us have seen. As punk rock as its subject thinks his life is, Dragonslayer is a haunting meditation on the growth of a man, and also a journal-like document of a generation that doesn’t wish to do anything else than just exist. With him being the spokesperson for a generation who knows that civilization’s best days are behind them, Josh is a revelation, in more ways than one.
Narratively, the film is superb. Clocking in at under 80 minutes, the film is a brisk watch, that feels like half of that length wise, but double that structurally. You learn so much about not only this man’s life as it is, but learn that for him, his lot in life is both attributed to his past, but that it also doesn’t quite matter to him or Patterson. You get a very brief glimpse as to where this man came from, and yet you feel as though you know exactly who he is and where he was created.
And then there is that soundtrack. This may be one of the best compilations of music of any film this calendar year.
Including tracks from indie darlings like Best Coast, Jacuzzi Boys, The Soft Pack and Thee Oh Sees, the film’s soundtrack is a new age punk score that fits the film’s tone and mood like a spiked glove. As much a brooding mood piece as the film, the soundtrack is a perfect fit for this film, which itself is best described as a thesis on both life, and the lack of control one truly has over it.
Overall, Dragonslayer is a film that many may simply glance over. A shorter documentary looking at a subject many people don’t really give two thoughts about, the world of skateboarding, Dragonslayer is so much more than that. And ode to a generation that seems to be lost, floating in a river of apathy and despair, Patterson has crafted a poetic film that is both massively entertaining, and also effectively dark and thought provoking. Featuring a top notch score, the film is a brilliant bit of documentary that looks at both one human’s life, and the perceived plight that an entire generation feels.