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(THIS AIN'T CALIFORNIA)

photo © Harald Schmitt

THIS AINʼT CALIFORNIA redefines the documentary genre:

In 90 minutes, we see the GDR more sharply, more clearly: the skater subculture shows that not all was grey-on-grey and drab clouds of Trabant fumes. The film takes original clips of the “wheel-board-riders” – straight out of the East German scene in the 80s – and mixes it with animations and reencounters with the protagonists today. It is not just a well thought out story on its own – this film also raises the aesthetic bar.

“Skating as freedom” is one of the leitmotifs of this film. Skating “without pressure to be better than someone else,” as one of the main characters puts it, became the goal in hindsight, or, said downright harshly, “the desire for freedom turned lifestyle”.

Unbelievable, if not for the simple fact that this Californian fun could find its
expression in the GDR.

“The GDR was not supposed to be that way – the streets were not for playing
around,” we hear at one point in the film – just as the “wheel-boards” roll across Alexanderplatz in footage from the 80s: hotpants, sex and music right beside government-organized processions. The story is authentic right down to the production and creative teams, which are made up of East and West German skaters.

“Wessi” director Marten Persiel works along with “Ossis” in the production, revisiting their lives and their own experiences without romanticizing any of it. The arc of the film connects past and present to show how the skatersʼ lives (shaped by a repressive system) have their own strength. THIS AINʼT CALIFORNIA has a lighthearted yet powerful soundtrack as limitless as the vitality of its protagonists. Yet it is not a light-hearted film at all. It is a metaphor with its beginnings in the GDR but does not end with the fall of the wall.


Marten Persiel was born in 1974 in Berlin. From 1995-1996 he worked as an editing assistant, followed by studies in Mixed Media Art at Portsmouth University and in Directing at Westminster University in London. A selection of his films includes: KEBALAND (2000), BEHIND DE MI HOUSE (animation, 2003), ADELA (animation, 2005), MIMI, LA JOIE (doc, 2007), JOY (short, 2008), LA CHURECA (doc, 2009), WELCOME EN CASA (doc, 2010), WE ARE SURFERS (doc, 2010), and THIS AIN'T CALIFORNIA (doc, 2012).
Genre Society
Category Documentary
Year of Production 2012
Director Marten Persiel
Cinematography Felix Leiberg
Producers Ronald Vietz, Michael Schöbel
Production Company Wildfremd Production/Berlin, in co-production with ARTE, RBB, MDR
Length 90 min
Format HDCAM SR, Blu-ray, color
Festivals Berlinale 2013, Atlanta Film Festival 2012, Palm Beach Int. Film Festival 2012, Nashville Film Festival 2012, Crossing Europe Linz 2012, DOK Fest Munich 2012, Beldocs Serbia 2012, Cannes Independent Film Festival 2012, Rooftopfilms New York 2012, Lighthouse Int. Film Festival New Jersey 2012, Shanghai 2012, Karlovy Vary 2012, Indianapolis 2012, New Zealand Int. Film Festival 2012, Melbourne 2012, Minneapolis Underground 2012, Kapittel Film Fest Norway 2012, Helsinki Love & Anarchy 2012, Raindance London 2012, Vancouver 2012, 2morrow Film Festival Russia 2012, Road to Ruins Film Festival Italy 2012, MOVE Film Festival Sweden 2012, Warsaw 2012, Molodist Kiev 2012, Santa Fe Independent Film Festival 2012, Cocatoo Island Film Festival 2012, Zagreb 2012, CPH DOX 2012, Seville 2012, Univerciné Allemand Nantes 2012, Rockumentti Finland 2012, Augenblick Strasbourg 2012, Tallinn Black Nights 2012, Plus Camerimage 2012, Int. Skateboard Film Festival L.A. 2012, Bahamas Int. Film Festival 2012, Sottodiciotto Turin 2012, Trieste 2012, Spokane 2013, Portland 2013, Tempo Documentary Festival Sweden 2013, STHLM Skateboard Festival Sweden 2013, MusiXine Oulu Music & Video Festival 2013, Simple Session 13 Tallinn Skate Festival 2013, Valenciennes 2013, Nord/Nordwest Surf Festival 2013, Bradford 2013, Docaviv Film Festival 2013, Roskilde 2013, Lubuskie Lato Filmowe 2013, Madrid Skate Festival 2013, BUSTER Copenhagen 2013, Sole Luna Film Fest Italy 2013, Niepokorni Niezlomni Wykleci Documentary Film Festival Poland 2013
Awards Dialogue en Perspective Berlin 2012, Special Jury Prize for Achievement in Directing Nasville 2012, Bets Doc Award Cannes Independent 2012, Best Documentary Feature Lighthouse New Jersey 2012, Best Editing Minneapolis Underground 2012, Best International Feature Santa Fe 2012, Best Documentary Cockatoo Island 2012, Audience Award, Jury Prize, Best Film in European Competition Nantes 2012, Best Director & Best Original Screenplay Skateboard Festival L.A. 2012, Audience Award Valenciennes 2013, Best Docu-Fiction Nord/Nordwest Surf Festival 2013
With backing from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, German Federal Film Fund
German Distributor Farbfilm Verleih

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