Birth Of Big Air

Birth Of Big Air


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

This BMX documentary is surprisingly accessible for those who know little about the sport. Although things are "rad" and "gnarly" the jargon is kept to a minimum as those who have been pushing BMX riding forward since its inception in the Seventies talk about the rider many see as the pioneer and endearing leader of the pack - Mathew Hoffman.

Just a kid of 16 when he emerged on the scene as a scarily gifted amateur, those who were already pro say they knew from the moment that they saw him that their time was numbered.

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Hoffman is a man for whom fear is a forbidden four-letter word. "If I died with a body that wasn't completely wrecked, I'd feel like I completely wasted it," he says and he has most certainly given dying at the hands of BMX - a seemingly unlikely achievement on the face of it - a damn good try. A graphic shows all the damage he has inflicted on himself, while his surgeon, who brands him "more of a nightmare than a dream" reveals he may be 38 in human years but that he's really 65 in terms of the state of his body.

There's a certain beauty to the madness of a man who thinks building a ramp so huge you could grab "20ft of air" - ie jump a bike vertically high enough to reach that achievement - is a good idea. But as you watch vintage home video footage of him getting a motorbike to tow him so he can even get the speed he needs to get him up the ramp, it makes your blood run cold.

This is sport as an obsession and it is little wonder that Hoffman found a kindred spirit in daredevil cyclist Evel Knievel, who is interviewed here before his death in 2007. This documentary may not be breaking any new ground but it doesn't outstay its welcome at less than an hour and Jeff Tremaine skillfully interlaces the story of Hoffman with the progression of the sport - brought to its knees in the late Eighties and resuscitated in no small part by Hoffman's own determination. A solid primer, a celebration and, as for Hoffman? He's totally rad.

Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2010
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Story of BMX pioneer Mat Hoffman.
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Director: Jeff Tremaine

Year: 2010

Runtime: 52 minutes

Country: US


Tribeca 2010

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