Directed by Tristan Patterson
Considering the disheveled hair, thickly matted beard, and thousand-yard stare, Josh “Skreech” Sandoval appears suspended in a permanent haze. The professional skateboarder sleepwalks through his daily routine of sporting competitions and drug-fueled house parties, equally drowsy during moments of joy and sadness alike. Early in Dragonslayer, Tristan Patterson’s straggly but earnest documentary on the Orange Country semi-legend, a friend even suggests Sandoval gleefully embraces his life of “random chaos.” Still, despite its masochistic tendencies, Sandoval’s troubled life is constantly punctuated by poetic motion. The film’s most resonant scenes find him gliding through empty swimming pools catching air and self-fulfillment at the same time.
This tonal dichotomy defines Dragonslayer, a story obsessed with the juxtaposition of Josh’s obvious physical talent and unflinching social apathy. Patterson captures Sandoval’s wild and woolly existence, following closely as he confronts new fatherhood and a quickly disintegrating professional sports career. So much of the film is dedicated to the quiet moments of sadness that endlessly dominates Josh’s tumble into adulthood, especially when Patterson pushes him about his young son or devoted girlfriend, Leslie Brown. Time slows down when these subjects are breached, as if the thought of pending responsibility was equivalent to a foreign language Josh is being forced to learn. Patterson’s attentive hand-held camera often lingers on his subject’s face, waiting and watching for some kind of clue to solve this human conundrum.
That a definitive explanation one way or another never comes makes Dragonslayer a very odd yet stirring bit of non-fiction tragedy. Josh embraces his slow motion dive into self-destruction and homelessness (he lives in a tent in a sponsor’s yard), but Patterson resists judgment, focusing on nuances of his life instead of the bitter foregone conclusion to come. Ultimately, one of Josh’s more contradictory quotes sums up his life and Dragonslayer perfectly: “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I totally realize I’m doing it.”
Opens November 4 at Cinema Village