SKATOPIA: 88 ACRES OF ANARCHY

4 Stars
Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 96 minutes
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If someone told you that a bastion of pure, unadulterated freedom exists in the United States, where would you expect to would find that place? Unless your answer is “in the middle of nowhere, Ohio,” you’re probably wrong.

Brewce Martin’s Skatopia, all 88 acres of it, floats out in the Ohio wilderness. Part skate park, park skateboarding legacy and museum and part anarchistic commune, it’s a grimy bubble of pure freedom; a skateboarder’s dream and end-of-the-world Thunderdome all at the same time. Drop by and party at their huge blowouts, live on site, skateboard, set your car on fire, have your own demolition derby, engage in an orgy of fireworks (or just a regular orgy)… anything goes at Skatopia.

Laurie House & Colin Powers’ Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy offers an unflinching gaze at what this complete freedom looks like, for better or worse. On the one hand, Brewce Martin’s Skatopia community may look like skateboarder heaven: beer, drugs, sex, parties and all the skateboarding you can physically endure for free. On the other hand, as the song goes in Team America, freedom isn’t free. In order to keep this utopia afloat and self-sustaining, the folks who wish to taste of the freedom it offers must pay for it somehow.

For those willing to stick around and live on the premises, this price winds up being physical labor; skate and party all they want, but voluntarily commit to a number of “work days” on site. Every year, Martin works to not only cover all the bills but to improve Skatopia in any way he can, such as building more skating ramps, bowls, pools or buildings on the premises. It’s a very organic, “everything is connected” system. In order to throw the wild parties and events that bring in the money to pay the bills, Skatopia has to keep topping itself year in and year out, which requires expansion and improvement. The downside of this constant growth, of course, is that Skatopia is seemingly always just surviving in spite of itself. While it may generate more money each year, it also seems to cost more.

Still, for the freedom to live off the grid, do what they want the way they want to do it, it is worth some time digging holes or pouring concrete to keep the system alive. At the same time, it can be exhausting to motivate people into doing the work, and that’s where Martin excels as both godfather of Skatopia and task masker. In many ways, he leads by example. When he wants to get shit done, he’s capable of plowing through the workday at a to-be-admired efficiency while keeping those around him busy at the same time. The problems come when he’s not around, and in the case of this documentary look into Skatopia, he winds up being away for a couple months stint in jail. The result is that the amount of improvements made at Skatopia before their annual Bowl Bash come to an almost grinding halt. Work gets done, mainly because no one wants to be around should the notoriously anger management-challenged Martin return and find nothing accomplished, but not to the extent that it would’ve happened had he been there the entire time.

For those not looking to live the commune-style life at Skatopia and instead only taste of the freedom via the parties and events, Skatopia offers a different type of payment system. Folks can come out, go nuts and have a blast for free… but they can’t leave unless they fork over essentials to keep Skatopia running, such as beer, drugs or money, either in outright donations or purchases of different Skatopia merchandise; there’s a subversive logic in it that makes total sense. At Skatopia, you’re not really paying for total freedom… but you will have to pay to turn your back on that freedom and head back into society.

Again, for better or worse, Skatopia: 88 Acres of Anarchy is what freedom looks like. Brewce Martin and the gang are keeping their dreams alive, on their terms. In many ways, its very existence is like the ultimate dare; they dare you to find out what being free really means. For some, that experience is going to be wholly frightening; a “be careful what you wish for because you might get it” debacle. For others, it’s worth donations or merch costs for the occasional, or annual, dabble in the freedom river. And for that very select crew willing to embrace it wholeheartedly, it is a daily way of life on site.

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Posted on October 31, 2011 in Reviews by
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