This Ain’t California. And I feel ripped off.

Last year, I reviewed This Ain’t California as part of MIFF. I loved it – thought it was an amazing documentary that told a fascinating story. Until this week, when Triple R’s Breakfasters interviewed Marten Persiel, director of this film, and all of my love for the film fell into a pile of anger.

The film is presented as a documentary following a group of skateboarders in East Germany during the cold war. They are young and rebellious, represented through sequences of apparently found footage and interviews with people who knew them; in particular the main character, Panick. But it is not a documentary. The ‘found footage’ was all staged. The interviews are fake. And I am really, really annoyed about it. Especially as I was just recommending the film to someone a few days ago, still believing it to be factual.

Persiel stated that he doesn’t understand why there should be only two categories of film: fiction and documentary. I’ve been thinking on this for a few days, and I’ve decided that the reason that I am so cross about this is that I had emotionally invested in these characters. I felt their hardship, and I wanted to see them live free in an oppressive world. And now they don’t even exist.

In an article in Variety that I found online, Persiel thinks that it is all fine because there was an underground skate culture in East Germany, and the characters he has made up are based on real characters. Whatever, Persiel. All I can say is that I am annoyed that it is fake, I don’t care that it is based on reality. I feel like I have been conned and I am not happy about it.  I am not sure how I would have felt had I known in advance that it was not actual reality, but for now I’m just grumpy.

This Ain’t California is screening in Melbourne as part of the German Film Festival. It may well be worth watching. I no longer know.

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