Flicking through an old issue of The Face the other day, I spotted Harry Jumonji modelling some Subware, reminding me that he has a habit of appearing in some relatively unlikely places. That had me Googling the recently screened documentary and I hadn’t realised that “OG” the Story of Harry Jumonji and the Birth of NYC Street Skating was online to rent or buy right now. The trailer has been drifting around for three years and the documentary includes footage shot seven years ago, resulting in something that gives a deeper overview of Jumonji’s life, up to his recent Go Fund Me aided return to Brazil courtesy of director Erica Hill. The letters O.G. are thrown about with little justification, but with Jumonji, we’re dealing with a true originator — Brazil’s best surfer turned skater who was forcefully sent to NYC by his dad where he helps father the city’s scene, with Jimmy Gestapo of Murphy’s Law putting him onto the Brooklyn Banks. It’s clear that Harry was a pioneer alongside fellow legend Andy Kessler (R.I.P.), and the film offers a sensitive portrayal of both its subject’s life as well as telling some of Kessler’s story.
Every drug addict has their “coulda been a contender” spiel, but in this case, it’s true — the local celebrity and cult hero could have been a superstar like friend Christian Hosoi who ended up with his fair share of demons, but, as the blunt talk of those relapses and incarceration testifies, Jumonji hasn’t come out the other side like Hosoi quite yet. The no-bullshit talk from associates like Tony Converse, shocking scene of heroin snorting, and situation with his child — echoing a distant relationship with his own dad — don’t give the Harry Jumonji story any easy Hollywood narratives, but his charisma and curious optimism in some doomed surroundings make him a likeable subject. This hustler since childhood lives that shambolic junkie life, but, just as those NYC skaters had to make do with the terrain they were given, he still has a lot of style both on the board and off it (that distinctive handstyle is explained too with some talk of his jail calligraphy classes). It’s both a cautionary tale and it’s a celebration of a character who embodies the worldview every streetwear brand wants to sell. Most of us aren’t built for it, so we’re better off with just the t-shirt. Hopefully between that overseas excursion, this film and the recent Know-Wave and Supreme supported ”OG” book, Harry Jumonji is on the road to greater recognition and some positive steps that, in an ideal world’ will give us the slightly happier follow-up one day. Go rent it.