Review: Dutch Skate-boarding Doc ZOMBIE: THE RESURRECTION OF TIM ZOM Grinds Deeper Than The Surface

(Dude, who scratched my car?)

In the past, the International Film Festival Rotterdam was sometimes chided for not having much locally-made content in its program, being maybe a bit TOO international for its own good. Recent editions have remedied that successfully, by always including at least a few Rotterdam films. This year, two local documentaries even made the audience top-10 list, one of them nearly winning the big prize. That film was Zombie: The Resurrection of Tim Zom, a very well-made look at the titular skate-boarding legend.

Zombie starts and ends with highlights of Tim Zom's life. In between it shows its subject from many different sides, a lot of them not so favorable. The starting highlight shows what Tim Zom is world-famous for: he wins a skate-boarding tournament. Ironically that event happens to be in Rotterdam, and Zom dominates the match so impressively, it actually ends up earning him an international sponsorship contract with a famous brand. That win was indeed a resurrection of sorts for him, as the remainder of the documentary shows.

Tim Zom grew up in the South of Rotterdam, in one of the worst neighborhoods, infamous for criminality. From an early age Tim refused to listen to his beleaguered mother and refused to go to school, hanging out on the streets with friends instead. The documentary shows that this behavior turned him into a brilliant skater, but also a violent troublemaker with a criminal past.
By the time the film turns back to its starting event, the Rotterdam tournament, it shows just how much Tim needed that win at that point in his 'career'. He had won prizes and international fame earlier already, but he had also been in prison, and unreliable behavior had lost him his previous sponsorship.

Director Billy Pols is an experienced maker of advertisements, and has often worked with practitioners of extreme sports to get money shots. However, his documentary never falls into the trap of deifying, or even glorifying Tim Zom. Make no mistake though: some of the stunt footage is jawdropping, the use of editing and music often stunning. But that aspect of the film is never allowed to get the upper hand. Instead, Billy Pols shows how Tim Zom deals with things which go wrong, and how he matures by actually listening to the good people surrounding him.

And a lot goes wrong. For each skateboarding trick going right, there are hundreds which do not go as planned, and the film often shows Tim's skateboard shooting away at cannonball speed while its owner gets road rash. Most of this takes place in public places in Rotterdam, making Tim a constant creator of damages. Even a successful grind results in peeled paint and scratches, as the name implies. Archive footage taken by Tim's friends shows Tim mouthing off to people objecting to their property being 'grinded', some of the discussions even ending in fistfights. At one point Tim manages an elaborate jump over a parked BMW, and is elated. So, wait, what? He actually fully expected to hit the BMW?

Behavior like this shows in no mean way how big an asshole Tim can be at times, and how his talent has been cultivated by doing damage to loads and loads of people. But this is juxtaposed with showing Tim as the professional he now is, with especially his girlfriend being a big calming factor. When the film returns to that tournament win in Rotterdam, the same footage now looks different, as you have the feeling you know Tim Zom a lot better. You certainly don't think of him as a superhero, and you might fear he'll fall back some day on his old behavior, but you also hope he will not. And that is maybe Zombie's biggest achievement.

Audiences at the International Film Festival Rotterdam went totally nuts over this local documentary, and rightly so. They awarded it a whopping 4.65 out of 5, making it end at the number two position in the final audience chart of the festival. Zombie: The Resurrection of Tim Zom will be theatrically released in The Netherlands this week. Below is the teaser, but rest assured this doesn't even begin to scratch (or grind, haha) the surface.

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  • Anton

    ZOMBIE!!!

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