Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator

Documentary portraying the life of Mark “Gator” Rogowski, a hotshot eighties skateboarder who fell from grace and went to prison for murder, is more a look at the popularity of skate culture over the past two decades than anything else. Some intriguing interviews, and his downfall is depicted in tender detail—but his life remains an enigma. Directed by Helen Stickler. (1 hr. 22 mins.; NR) — BILGE EBIRI

Opens August 22
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Spotlight: A new documentary looks into skateboarding’s darkest night.
‘This film is about someone on the edge of leaving his childhood, trying to become an adult, who just doesn’t have the skills,” Helen Stickler says of skateboard legend turned confessed murderer Mark “Gator” Rogowski, the subject of her documentary Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator. “It was Gator’s bad decisions, but also a combination of religion, his obsession with being born-again, his girlfriend, his family, and skateboarding that brought him down.” In the eighties, a teenage Mark Rogowski rode to superstardom alongside Tony Hawk, but as his popularity waned, Rogowski became a manic, violent binge drinker. In 1991, the 24-year-old was convicted of killing Jessica Bergston, his ex-girlfriend’s best friend. “I couldn’t believe no one had told his story,” says Stickler, who heard of Gator through Shepard Fairey, the underground artist who was the subject of her first documentary short. “I wanted to discover how someone goes from being a role model to humanity’s lowest form.” In her feature debut, six years in the making and self-financed, Stickler mixes rare archival film and new interviews with players like Tony Hawk, Brandi McClain (the ex who introduced Gator to Jessica), and Gator himself, calling collect from Folsom State Prison. “A decade of skateboarding lifestyle went into this film,” she says. “The innocence of the early years; the mid-eighties, where it starts to get stale, and the catastrophe of where it all ends. In Gator’s story, there’s something everybody can learn.”


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