Highway Gospel
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Highway Gospel

Jaret Belliveau (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)

Saturday, April 30, 9:30 p.m.
The Royal Cinema (608 College Street)
Monday, May 2, 9:30 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
Saturday, May 7, 11:45 p.m.
Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)

The characters in Highway Gospel are devout believers in the Church of the Longboard. As they race down the steep mountainsides of Kimberley, British Columbia, this tight-knit group of downhill diehards eat asphalt like it’s the host, and gulp beer like it’s, well, wine. They devote their hearts and lives to four wheels, a board, and the road, eschewing evil temptations like commercialization and the corporate skateboarding industry.
The doc centres around three of longboarding’s most pious pioneers, responsible for giving the sport a legitimate and loyal following across Canada and the entire world. Former high school shop teacher Jody “Schnitzel” Wilcock kickstarted the movement with his custom boards, built with a jigsaw made from scrap metal. Bricin Lyons is an overweight, crass race announcer who spearheaded the legalization of downhill boarding. And Claude Regnier is a former skate champion whose undying ardor, despite a heart leak and six failed skate parks, makes him attempt to reclaim his title at age 50. Rounding out the cast is a motley crew of rowdy boarders, Lost Boys to Wilcock’s Peter Pan; Lyons’ up-and-coming protégé; and Regnier’s understandably concerned yet steadfast girlfriend.
The manboys of Highway Gospel are flawed, to be sure: they drink, they swear, they enthusiastically put themselves in physical harm to pursue downhill and freestyle longboarding, and are relentlessly immature. And Belliveau sympathetically juxtaposes the carefree lifestyles of Wilcock, Lyons, and their young followers, with Regnier who struggles to maintain that youthful spirit with adult responsibilities like finances, a career, an aging body, and the dependency of a loved one. But against a gorgeous B.C. backdrop, Belliveau ultimately renders them honorable, even heroic, in their unwavering dedication to the sport. Much like in the breakneck downhill races, they stand firmly on their passion and hold on for dear life.