Travis Roberts, Calvin Johnson, Frank Gunderson
CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Frank Gunderson, Bret Woods
Director's Commentary; Deleted Scenes; Extras Concert Footage; Subtitles in English, Portuguese, Swahili, and Pirate :)
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As much a story about one man's return from war as it is the story of one band's reunion, Human Skab is an ultra indie feature documentary that weaves together a punk rock spirit with its real life story to create an unsettling story that is even more unsettling because it represents one man's truth.
That one man is Travis Roberts, who started the band Human Skab when he was a mere eight-years-old.
At the age of 10, Roberts said "In ten years I'm gonna be cruising the coast. Drinking my pop. I'm gonna be kissing all the girls; I'm gonna be singing all the rock." Instead, Roberts was playing his part in the War on Terror and it would be over 20 years after that bold statement before Roberts would find himself reuniting with the band in 2009 alongside bassist Matt Love and drummer Bret Woods, also the film's co-director.
Human Skab is a wildly uneven and disjointed film, but it's hard to believe that the film would have worked any other way. At times, Human Skab feels like we've stumbled into the darker side of a Spinal Tap documentary but there's really very little actual humor here and there's quite a bit more that will challenge your thoughts, touch your heart, and maybe even pi** you off.
It may just be the fact that Woods and co-director Frank Gunderson, who was also alongside Roberts as a kid, seem to steadfastly resist pigeonholing Human Skab into any predictability that makes the film both maddeningly inconsistent and irresistible. There's a sense of strong politics behind Human Skab, though if you don't actually guess that from the DVD cover itself then you're probably not paying attention and you're probably not the film's actual target audience.
There are times when Human Skab is absolutely about the music, and these scenes are absolutely compelling. There are other times, however, when the film veers wildly and simply follows the story of Roberts and his healing journey after his time as a soldier and/or contractor in Egypt, Kosovo, and Afghanistan.
In some ways, it's clear that everything has changed and yet in other ways it seems to have all returned Roberts to the very essence of his being.
There are times that it seems like Human Skab is aiming higher than it can possibly achieve, but for anyone who can appreciate a deeply personal account of healing and rediscovery it remains an involving film throughout its 105-minute running time. For more information on the film, be sure to visit its website linked to in the credits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic