Dragonslayer Film Like a Tame Day in Mediocre Land
Dragonslayer isnt an important film. It wont change your life, awaken new understandings, or teach you anything. Its not allegorical, or thrilling in the sense that massive explosions beat you over the head until you recognize the delineation between right and wrong. Dragonslayer is like a walk on the beach, easy and calm. You might think that the main character will conquer his daemon, but the title of the film belies its plot. On the other hand, the film does immaculately expose a “wavelength,” or moment in time, of a guy, who is marginalized””not by a formidable, conspicuous dragon””but by an ineffable cloud of mediocrity.
Josh Sandoval, main character, referred to throughout the movie as Skreech, is in his early twenties (maybe younger), has a baby, ex-wife, new girlfriend, no job, and occasionally sleeps in a tent outside his friends house. For Skreech a tent in someones backyard, or some extra fries from a local burger joint is “hooking it fat.” Indicative of his low standards, Sandoval doesnt expect much out of life. Because Chino, CA, where the film is shot, doesnt expect much out of him.
James Kunstler, author of Geography of Nowhere describes places like Chino as “tragic”””a “landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.” The director of Dragonslayer, Tristan Patterson, refers to the location as, “the rotting suburbs of inland California.”
Sounds hopeless””so, lets smoke weed and skate.
Postponing his inevitable, humdrum, 9-5 future, Skreech does skate””a lot. Hes got the look: tattered tees, cheap paraphernalia, reflective sunglasses, and fists full of beer. His skating style is unique. We follow him to competitions””his final shot to “make it,” so to speak. And, we hangout with his friends, skating in parks or abandoned swimming pools. When it seems Skreechs attempts to escape Chino fizzle””via skating the world, or driving into the sunset on an open-ended road trip with an old car and a new girlfriend””we witness Sandovals return to the doldrums. The still-quirky skater suits up to work at a bowling alley, as a service guy.
Against the grain of ticky-tacky houses and normality, every once in a while characters like Skreech emerge with an unusual attitude. In equal proportion to Chinos lameness, Skreech is unique and sincere. Thus, mediocrity may dominate Chino, but it doesnt pervade Sandoval””thats the small victory here.
As documentarians go, director Tristan Patterson and cinematographer Eric Koretz crafted something honest with Dragonslayer. Within the swarm of films that are trying to prove something, this one isnt. Patterson and Koretz give viewers the opportunity to quietly observe, a luxury often not granted by filmmakers, who shove their ideas down the throats of audiences. The director calls Dragonslayer a “celebration of what makes [Josh Sandoval] so unique.” I would add to this by saying that I enjoyed watching a film that is seemingly unobstructed by judgments, the need for a revelatory ending, or happily-ever-after moment. Its for those reasons that Dragonslayer won best documentary feature, and best cinematography in this years South by Southwest film festival.