A version of this capsule review of Tristan Patterson’s skater documentary Dragonslayer was originally published as part of a 2011 SXSW Film Festival recap published on Cinematical on March 23, 2011.
This year’s Grand Jury Winner in the documentary feature program is Dragonslayer, Tristan Patterson‘s near-verité look into the life of pro skateboarder Josh “Screech” Sandoval. The film follows Sandoval as he returns to the sport after a hiatus. We see him omewhat adapt to fatherhood, hang out with a new girlfriend, and otherwise wander about, homeless and aimless.
I’ve heard criticisms focused on its pointlessness. But I’m certain it would receive a lot more love if it was the exact same film, shot-for-shot, yet was a work of realist fiction rather than a documentary. Like, say, if Gus Van Sant had made it.
No, you won’t learn much from this film, which is so gorgeous to look at (yes, even with all the out-of-focus shots) that Eric Koretz‘s win at SXSW for Best Cinematography almost seems like a too-obvious understatement.
First-time filmmaker Patterson and his editors (Lizzie Calhoun and Jennifer Tiexiera) structure the year-or-so-long narrative neatly with album track-inspired chapter breaks and do a marvelous job cutting both the skate action and the simpler scenes (like with Armadillo, there are times I wondered just how they achieved the coverage of certain moments). See this one on the big screen if you get a chance.
You can find the original article this SXSW capsule review appears in via the Internet Archive. And with it, capsule reviews of Convento, Tell Your Friends! The Concert Film!, A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt, Kumare, and Last Days Here.
Plus mentions of Armadillo, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, The Interrupters, How to Die in Oregon, The City Dark, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Where Soldiers Come From, Buck, Better This World, Sound It Out, Satan Since 2003, and Tugs.