Review: Rom Boys: 40 Years of RAD
I HAVE reviewed in some interesting places in my time but a skateboard park is a new one.
Then again, Rom Skateboard Park in Hornchuch is no ordinary skateboard park. Since its opening on a rainy summer in 1978, it has garnered a worldwide reputation.
It is a mecca for skateboarders as well as (as we learned in Matt Harris’s debut documentary), other associated cultures such as BMX and Graffiti artists.
The ninety-minute documentary takes you through the history of the park. The star is the park itself, Even to a non-skater, it is a wonderfully brutal looking construction and it is no wonder that it is a Grade 2 listed building.
The documentary also benefits from dozens of interviews with those who have used the park. Their testimonies are fascinating. Whether it is those who have gone on to have successful careers in media etc. or there are wonderful local boys such as Dion, who, despite being in his fifties, has an abiding love for a sport, a sport that has kept him on the straight and narrow.
The quality of the interviews are testament to the director. Yes they are all characters but the style of interviews, the different settings, bring out the best in them. You also get the feeling that Matt has managed to get everyone from Hornchurch to California in front of his camera.
It is also fascinating that each and every one seems to have a different reason for loving skateboarding.
The documentary uses a great abundance of filming techniques and I imagine it will look great on a HD screen but it could have been so tempting for a director to make it more like a music video. Instead, Matt has shown great discipline in channeling all the old footage and new interviews into a structured piece that has the park as its star.
Having said that there is a number of wonderful shots made by Matt that are worth that entry fee alone.
The documentary also made you appreciate what a tolerant and peaceful culture is at the heart of skateboarding . “There are less judgmental people here than in a church”
You also warm to each person. They all seem nice guys, interesting guys, normal guys and eccentric guys.
After an hour the story moves to look at how other cultures such as BMX bikers and graffiti artists got involved. It was good to see the Lakeside walls make an appearance.
We then went to the present day predicament of the Rom Park. The fire in 2018, the closure and the battle to keep it in place.
The battle is on going. I know that there are towns that would love to have a place such as Rom Park.
I know this took five years to make but the hard work was all worth while. Matt Harris has created a stylish, warm and culturally vital piece of work that stands alone as a slice of entertainment on a Saturday night as a drive in movie but also as an important documentation of late twentieth and early twentieth century cultural history.
Directed and Shot by : Matt Harris Original Music by: Fernando Martinez Sound Design & Mix : Will Berridge / Carlos Hernandez Executive Producer: Lucy-Emma Harris Production Company: Pixelwork
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