'Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy': How a misfit refuge rolls
A review of "Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy," an eye-opening documentary that concerns a kind of anarchist paradise and commercial enterprise on Ohio farmland, created by a charismatic outlaw.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy,' a documentary written and directed by Colin Powers and Laurie House. 94 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Grand Illusion.
Making sense out of chaos is no easy task. But that's the admirable outcome of "Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy," an eye-opening documentary about a bizarre sociological phenomenon that has been evolving on an Ohio farm since 1995.
Like a cross between an upstart frontier town, a theme park, a cult haven and an outlaw version of Peter Pan's Neverland, the real-life Skatopia, as portrayed by filmmakers Colin Powers and Laurie House, is a refuge for several breeds of misfit. Hard-core skateboarders (Tony Hawk makes a brief appearance) are drawn to homemade ramps and pipes; motorbike enthusiasts and demolition-derby fans have their fun; and all manner of metalheads, punks, strippers, sketchy itinerants and wastrels congregate there — some, seemingly, on a permanent basis.
Lording over this muddy fiefdom like a visionary despot is Brewce Martin, a 40-year-old pro skater whose problems with anger management pushed him, at an early age, to the margins of society. But the charismatic if obviously dangerous Martin (the camera catches him impulsively kicking the head of a much younger man at one point, soon after doing prison time for assault), who bought the land to create Skatopia with donations, is also a natural leader.
Time and again, Powers and House — simply by following Martin everywhere he goes — reveal his uncanny ability to motivate, barter, nudge and literally shovel his way to making Skatopia both an anarchist paradise and a viable enterprise. Martin rewards the sweat equity of society's outsiders with nothing more than a semblance of home, where one can always find a bed and a mosh pit. But he's also a dealmaker good with endorsements, publicity and retail, marketing to the very people building his dream with him.
Shot over many months, "Skatopia" is a frenzied patchwork of glimpsed activities, most of them concerning preparations for an annual bacchanalia called the Bowl Bash. But many are focused on Martin, his children, his unhappy lover Amity and his many followers.
None of it is a pretty picture, but as a portrait of some kind of manifest independence turning increasingly commercial, "Skatopia" is a very American story.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com