For people such as myself and even younger generations, roller skating - and in particular roller dancing - is just a retro pastime that seems to be coming back around, yet still maintains (in our eyes at least) a goofy and outdated stigma. By watching the documentary ‘Roller Dreams’, we’re about to get a swift slap to our naïve faces and an education about how it was so much more than a couple of spandex-clad groovsters on eight wheels.
In 70s, 80s and 90s Los Angeles, there were only a few black neighbourhoods in central LA, and one perfect piece of flat flawless pavement on Venice Beach. While the city and its black and Hispanic population was dominated by gang wars and violence, those on the other side found freedom and kinship roller dancing by the beach. It was a form of rebellion, expression and joy. It gave Venice Beach its colour and flavour, and also kept many out of prison and the arms of gangs. That is until time, race riots and extreme prejudicial racism took it all away by the turn of the century. The documentary ‘Roller Dreams’ takes us back to the beginning and the people who started it all - most importantly Mad, the godfather of the movement and his partner Sally.
What starts as a nostalgic look back at a joyous time and place that transformed lives and a humble beach quickly becomes a sad tale of racism, tragic devolution of a city and its people and the destruction of a culture.
In a time when a videocamera wasn’t in the hands of every living person, the sheer amount of footage of these skaters 25, even 30 years ago and the crowds they pulled is a true testament to their impact and why a film like this exists.
To spend just 80 minutes with these people is a bittersweet experience as we can do nothing but sit back and witness how this one man, Mad, transformed and saved so many lives except his own due to his many sacrifices for his passion.
‘Roller Dreams’ is for those who long for the good old days and so much more.