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This Ain't California | Documentary Review

by Sarah Coffey
(Germany )

We are always told to be wary of exploitative documentaries, to beware of fake footage and clever editing. Well Marten Persiel's This Ain't California is a film that combines all three.

P.Bradshaw says 'we are being led up the garden path' in his review for the Guardian - and I am tempted to agree. The footage that we presume is edited from long lost home movies is actually mocked Super 8 footage and the characters that we become fond of are all actors.

As the story uncurls more and more status is given to Panik and it is with a modest tone that we are told of how his skating contributed to East and West Berlin skaters uniting against the authorities. It's not that I doubt this is true, what matters is there is no way of finding out if it is true - Panik is dead, his only living relative his father and he makes no appearance throughout the film, and all footage seen of Panik is using an actor.

It is with a heavy heart that I must call it that, a film, because there is simply not enough evidence to call this a documentary. But it does create a wider argument - are we being naive to use documentary to describe a whole host of artistic ventures and then get irate when we don't agree with the content? Perhaps it is us, the critics, who have created this in the first place, by perpetuating such a general term?

This Ain't California | Documentary Trailer




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