01st Oct2020

‘Rom Boys: 40 Years of Rad’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Tim Altic, Iain Borden, John Buultjens | Written by Susan Brand, Matt Harris | Directed by Matt Harris

Back in 2001 I was working in a local Video Shop (Global Video) for a crappy minimum wage. One of the perks, actually probably the only perk, was that I got to watch everything and anything that came through the door. I would do exactly that all day every day. It didn’t matter if I had not heard of the flick and you could say this was where my love of indie film came from; because I would watch all the big budget and on a quiet day I would slap on something that just looked different, only to be wowed by some of the best gems you could find.

Enough of the history lesson on Kevin Haldon, lets get to my point at hand. One such title I came across was a documentary called Dogtown and the Z Boys. A fascinating documentary about the birth of skateboarding and the pioneers of that genre. Focusing mainly on the infamous Zephyr skate team, this documentary showed me a side of something I had a passing interest in as a kid but really had no idea what it was all about and how it all got started. My knowledge was Tony Hawks Pro Skater on the PS1 and that was about it. Of course 2005 swings round and Lords of Dogtown comes out and thanks to a fantastic up and coming cast, including the late Heath Ledger, we get a big screen outing for the Z-Boys.

I bring all this up now because although I was captivated by the Z-Boys documentary AND the movie I still had very little idea how big this whole scene was and I certainly didn’t know it was a big scene in the UK. Here I am in 2020 having just watched another documentary about the skateboarding scene in the UK; and an infamous skate park steeped in history that seems to be in trouble. Lets do this!

Rom is a skate park like no other, Rom is one of the oldest and most unique skate parks in the world today, Rom is somewhere you can go and shuffle your everyday normal self and just be who you are meant to be. Rom is their church and their church is in danger so its time to shed these dreary normal grown up clothes in order to save Rom as a group of old school skaters, BMX riders and street artists team up to fight for its survival. This feature length documentary looks at a totally unique aspect of British sub-culture – the first generation of skateboarders and BMX freestyle riders in the world’s most unique skatepark. Built in a suburb of east London in the late 1970’s, Rom is the only skatepark in the world to have official historic protection.

As documentaries go Rom Boys does everything it needs to. A story 15 years in the making, with countless interviews with the people who were there when it all began, at the ground floor when this new phenomena came over from America. These are the real people who skated this outrageously well-crafted, one of a kind, skate park their whole lives. Britain’s “Z-Boys” had somewhere to go and most importantly somewhere to grow. It didn’t matter if you were an artist, a banker, a teacher, a criminal or a bus driver… as long as you respected the culture, you were welcome.

I loved Rom Boys: 40 Years of Rad, I really did. The interviews are really candid and you can tell that for some people this park was all they had. Watching these guys talk about their “first” love 20-odd years later, as if it was yesterday, was super engaging and at at times heart-breaking at the thought of these guys losing a part of their culture and by extension themselves.

Rom Boys looks gorgeous too – it’s shot entirely on 4K cameras, bringing a real beauty to the park. Using highly polished archive footage you get a real sense of just how much these film makers love their subjects. Matt Harris has done a fantastic job of crafting a great documentary that will live on for a good few years and stand as a record for a culture that refused to be tied down to conventions and spoke up for just being yourself.

This is definitely a strong recommendation from me! There is a reason Rom Boys is picking up awards, it’s easily one of the most well put together and inspiring documentaries I have seen as of late. Please check the film when out when it releases on demand in the United States and UK on October 13th.


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