Stacy Peralta, Director, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography
Stacy Peralta is an American filmmaker, former professional skateboarder, and original member of the Z-Boys. He joins Film Forward in Imperial Valley to screen and discuss his latest film ‘Bones Brigade: An Autobiography.’
Wednesday, February 27
We’re all up early this morning to cross the big border fence into Mexicali, Mexico and head to UABC University’s Center for the Study of Audio/Visual production and Film (an unofficial translation). First up will be a screening of my film: Bones Brigade followed by a Q&A. We’ve now got an additional person traveling with us, Film Forward’s June Kim as our de-facto navigator and trip photographer.
We arrive early to UABC where Meredith introduces my film and the Film Forward program to the eager student audience. The lights come down, my film begins and while the students watch we take an hour leave from the campus so our guide Marco Vera can take us for the ultimate taco experience. As a California kid I have spent decades eating Mexican food up and down the Pacific coast. But what Marco introduces us to is a taco experience of another kind. Even though he’s pre-hyped it to us for the past few days – we are all knocked off our feet by the food and the display. Inside this humble Mexicali restaurant are picnic bench tables laden with about a dozen small plastic bowls in a rainbow of colors filled with everything from pickled radishes, to spicy carrots, to onions, to avocado sauces, to tomato/avocado salsa, to tomato salsas ranging from mild to blast furnace all the way to full out scald-your-intestinal-tract-colonoscopy. On Marco’s recommendation we all order half carne asada, half al pastor tacos. We all eat two and are so stuffed afterwards that we exit the restaurant gripping with abdominal pain, yet with a plan to get back here as soon as possible and bring Jerry Rothwell (director of Town of Runners) and Bethany who is currently driving him to his screenings.
Back at UABC for the Q&A I’m once again astounded by the number of students and teachers who thank us for showing up; for traveling to them to show our films and to talk with them and listen to them about their dreams and desires. These aspiring student filmmakers know how to access what they want online, from a digital perspective, but for them nothing takes the place of us contact, of being here with them, and making an up close and personal connection with them – being able to shake their hands, look them in the eyes, share advice and experience, give a hug and take photos together. One audience member, a female student brings tears to my eyes when during the Q&A she says to me; “No one ever comes here. Your visit with us and your spending time with us here, lets us know you believe in us.” I’m so taken aback by her sincerity that I have to hold back tears. That kind of sincere and hungry interaction from those we meet along this adventure will continue to happen again and again throughout the week. It blows our minds yet makes us feel good as we can see the Film Forward mandate in full effect.
We have to allow at least an hour and a half to get back across the big border fence to America. It is a pot-holed two-lane road with peasant merchants traipsing up and down the dividing line between the lanes, selling cotton candy, beverages, lime-chili nuts and puppies. Yes, there is a guy selling a puppy that looks as if it was born a few hours before. One of the more industrious entrepreneurs is a family band like the old TV show “My Three Sons” consisting of a father and his sons playing a clarinet and drums. Somehow they must make some kind of sustainable living performing to the outgoing drivers.
After a two hour drive and a quick rest back at the hotel, Stephanie, Meredith, June and I are off again for a bite to eat before we head to our next screening and Q&A. The locals suggested Thai food. Thai food in El Centro, California? This might seem like a stretch but it turns out to be amazing and once again we’re stuffed to the point of physical pain.
Charla Teeters (the Imperial Valley Film Commissioner and our local guide on this side of the border) has collaborated with Ernie Quintero, the owner of Cheap Tricks Skate Shop, to have the street in front of his El Centro store shut down in order to screen Bones Brigade. Since I was a teenager I’ve been chased and arrested skating in many places including public streets, yet here we are tonight having a sanctioned screening of my film on a blocked off street. The skate shop is in the background, the audience members are sitting on folded metal chairs in the middle of the street, kids are skating and doing Ollies on guerilla jump ramps behind them, bar patrons are slamming beers behind the screen, it feels and looks just like a punk rock show from the eighties. The whole tableau is raw, unprofessional, rowdy yet completely innocent. This is a one-of-a-kind experience for all of us.
Once again the audience members rise up for a vigorous Q&A. They want information, advice, knowledge. They want to know my thoughts of their home El Centro – what I think of it, how I feel about it, do I think they can follow their dreams coming from such a remote place as this? Then afterwards many come up for autographs on their shirts, their arms and other pieces of skin, and their skateboards – all the while thanking us for coming to their town, their skate-shop for this visit. But this time it’s we who thank them for inviting us, for sharing their stories with us, for making us feel that a connection with an audience is a true collaboration because really, without this experience of an audience watching my film I could ask myself a question akin to “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The entire experience is wonderfully reciprocal. Thanks to this opportunity of being on this journey with Film Forward I hear the trees falling and snapping all over the place.