By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Šimon Šafránek’s new documentary King Skate is a playful and thought-provoking look at Czechoslovak history through the freedom of skateboarding… plus the soundtrack is awesome.
King Skate focuses on the pioneers of Czechoslovak skateboarding including local superstars / skate legends Ivan Pelikán, Petr Forman and Luděk Váša, and their ability to cope and adapt to life under communist rule through the popular American sport.
The documentary seamlessly utilises archive black and white skate footage from the ’70s and ’80s (it’s incredible just how much footage there really is) combined with interviews and stories from the skaters today. Šafránek cuts back and forth between eras to a thumping and rather international punk soundtrack – there’s even some Czech stuff in there.
There’s really a whole other world here. As a westerner myself, I had no idea that there was virtually no access to skateboards back then. From the makeshift ‘puck boards’ to the ramp made of wooden doors – they had nothing back then, and Šafránek really puts a spotlight on that. We see the madhouse tricks (Váša is unbelievable), the epic competitions and the partying, but what we see most of all, is that pursuit of freedom – cue DEVO’s ‘Freedom of Choice’.
This film really cranks up the nostalgia and you don’t have to be Czech to figure that out. It’s a documentary that cleverly questions the very idea of that previously mentioned freedom – just look at how much the scene changed after the Velvet Revolution. What was once an escape became something overwhelming and money-driven, quite the opposite to the punk-inspired lifestyle they knew and loved.
It’s been a long journey for King Skate to make it to the big screen. There was a crowdfunding campaign to get it off the ground earlier this year, which obviously worked because the response was phenomenal. The film had a massive premiere screening in Karlovy Vary International Film Festival and an outdoor screening last week in Mystic Skatepark Štvanice where over 1000 people attended.
King Skate is an absolute must, as much for foreigners as it is for Czechs. It speaks to both the older and younger generations, and really puts things into perspective. Leaving a link to the soundtrack playlist here because it’ll help get you through this autumn change.