The gritty, engaging documentary All This Mayhem is an excellent watch available on Presto. It paints an ugly picture for professional skateboarding by looking at it through the lens of the legendary Pappas brothers.
“There are three sides to the story. Your side, my side and the truth:” so says Tas Pappas, the central figure and driving force behind extreme sports documentary All This Mayhem, in the opening moments of the film. It’s a clear statement of intent for the journey that follows; this is Tas’ story, and as long as you accept that, you’ll find yourself absorbed by his riveting tale of rags to riches to desolation and redemption.
Tas and brother Ben Pappas were two young bogans from Melbourne with access to a skateboard ramp and little else. Their goal was seemingly impossible: to change the skateboarding world. But they did it. Through sheer willpower and extraordinary talent, the duo make it to the States and then to the top of the world, revitalising the vertical scene and toppling the mighty Tony Hawk in the process. It’s the great Australian story; or at least it should be.
While fans of the sport - casual and hardcore alike - will enjoy watching the large library of raw footage from the early skate scene, All This Mayhem’s power lies in its warts and all dismantling of a family. The Pappas family. The Skateboarding family. The extreme sports family. At its centre are two brothers with a bond forged around an “us vs. the world” mentality who created a maelstrom of carnage around them by succeeding despite the odds. Two blokes whose desperate search for guidance and love was satiated by drugs and anger as they naïvely rolled ever further away from their potential.
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I stumbled upon All This Mayhem quite by accident, and if you can handle the profanity and drug use, I highly recommend it. The insight into this insane world of young professional extreme sports stars during the rise of the scene from hobby to global commercialisation will leave you gobsmacked. Leave you questioning the way corporations used up and spat out many of its teenage stars and wondering what could have been. The use of archival footage is deep, and shocking, while Tas carries the film with a Chopper-like charisma and an unquestionable openness that speaks as much about his life experience as the words themselves.
There’s plenty of holes and questions left unanswered, but this is Tas’ story and it’s powerful and compelling. Trust me; you’ll be thinking about Tas and Ben (and Tony) long after the credits have rolled.