<em>Barely Dead: The Saga of Modern Rollerblading</em>

Barely Dead: The Saga of Modern Rollerblading

To the Maxxx

2008 Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Proving the age-old adage that quality is better than quantity, this year’s To the Maxxx category, though smaller than years past, is more jam-packed with movies that impress, inspire, and make you say “holy s#*t!” than ever before. From fresh looks at all the traditional board sports to intimate and surprising takes on less celebrated extreme endeavors like rock climbing, ultimate fighting, and-get ready for it-rollerblading, SBIFF’s 2008 ode to the radical delivers the goods.

The crown jewel of the lineup is the Sunday, January 27, world premiere of Bustin’ Down the Door. Featured on the cover of last week’s Independent, this documentary’s look at the birth of modern high-performance surfing is an instant classic, enjoyable for both the old-timers and salt-water neophytes among us. To the Limit is a mesmerizing mix of naturescapes and the rock climbing accomplishments of two German brothers, Thomas and Alexander Huber, as they look to set speed records in Yosemite.

Nothing is more hardcore of an athletic pursuit than street-style skateboarding, and the locally made skate flick Sol (the third film fest effort from S.B.’s Erik Hatch) does the story proper justice with more than a few familiar faces in the mix. Long suffering at the receiving end of countless jokes about its softer, less-skilled price of participation, the sport of rollerblading gets a surprisingly entertaining boost in the redemption-minded documentary Barely Dead: The Saga of Modern Rollerblading. The film is, dare I say it, perhaps the sleeper hit of the entire category.

The sport that’s rendered professional boxing all but irrelevant, ultimate fighting, gets its heavy-hitting, blood-soaked exterior peeled back in the movie Fighter, revealing a blossoming and decidedly unsavage human side of the sport. Another gem in the category is the surf travel flick Sliding Liberia. In the similar vein of now-famous surf movies like Shelter and September Sessions, Sliding takes the viewer to the west coast of Africa in search of waves among the ruins of civil war, using stunning cinematography and the thoughtful consciousness of filmmakers Britton Caillouette and Nicholai Lidow to tell a story that ultimately transcends the sport of surfing and speaks to a greater truth about the human experience.

Rounding out the category is a double dose of contemporary and often urban snowboarding in the films Picture This and Against the Grain; D.O.P.E.(Death or Prison Eventually), which looks at the drug-addled trials and tribulations of skateboarding legends Jay Adams, Christian Hosoi, Dennis Martinez, and Bruce Logan; and On the Pipe Four, the annual high-definition, balls-out motocross extravaganza by S.B.’s Jay Schweizer.

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