Pray For Me : The Jason Jessee Film (Steve Nemsick & David Rogerson, 2007)
Professionnal skateboarder Jason Jessee is profiled in this 80 minutes documentary that preceded his comeback to a skaboarding sponsorship by Santa Cruz skateboards.
Coming from a Mormon family of South California that liked motorcycles and guns, Jason Jessee became a peculiar character that few people have really understood. Considered by his friends and peers as a clown or a kook, Jessee has passed from 100 000$ earnings in a year skateboarding to a minimum wage job cleaning dishes.
The portrait of his family and childhood is nicely done but too much time is on the fact that he hides himself behind a mask of comedy and extreme behaviors such as Nazi imagery, terrorist slogans, and Jesus freak phrases. Clearly, this is a man that wanted to do things his own way and make people talk about him. Sadly, the documentary almost plays as a joke and only encourages his eccentric side without trying to really scratch the surface and peel off the layers of this obvious shell that Jessee has forged around him to protect him from being hurt.
Another side of Pray For Me that should be improved is the lack of footage of his skateboarding days and the few archives shown. I read on IMDb that the budget was around 100 000$ for the entire documentary and this is probably one of the reasons it was harder to get rights for the archives of his career. However, the whole film feels that the budget was limited and it is almost sad that it feels cheap. There’s one thing when the soundtrack is done with less money and features more underground artists, much like skateboarding videos in general, but when the writing of the screenplay lacks of formal structure and circles around an interesting topic without achieving a complete analysis.
Between two shots of Jessee kidding around in his garage and interviews of his peers and family, Pray For Me : The Jason Jessee Film leaves us with a vague impression of the man and many questions hold in the air regarding the subject of the film and its purpose. As a skateboarder myself I like to know the guy behind the name written on the decks I buy. The Jason Jessee boards are nice skateboards and his graphics have always been considered as popular amongst customers. Apart if you are a real fan of the man or a diehard rabid consumer of everything skateboard I would suggest a rental but as aforementioned, there’s not a lot to learn from this 80 minutes documentary.