In Rockford, IL there’s not much to do, jobs are scarce and the town’s young people congregate at the skater park. Among them is Zack, a charismatic boy who becomes the center of attention for his friend Bing’s cinematic efforts, capturing their skating, their homes, their relationships. Keire is a little younger than they are, but he looks up to the older boys and becomes part of their friend group. They grow up together – with all growing up entails.
Minding the Gap starts life as a documentary about a group of skaters, a group the director himself belongs to. But spanning over a decade in their lives, the film’s subjects change as much as the film itself, ultimately becoming not only a coming of age story, but also a hard and highly personal look at how a boy can become a good man when he has mostly bad experiences with the men around him.
I was honestly hesitant about whether I wanted to see the film, but then it fit my schedule very well and it did sound interesting, so I went for it and saw not only one of my favorite films of the entire Viennale, but of the whole year. It’s a beautifully crafted documentary that shows the political and sociological in the private
I expected a film that deals with youth culture for the most part. And the film certainly begins that way: we meet the boys skating and spending time with each other. We get to know them and we see how they relate to each other and to skating. But that’s only the beginning of the film. When Zack gets a girlfriend, when he starts drinking and turns violent in that relationship, we see Bing and Keire grappling with that change in a friend they always idolized. And we see Bing trying to understand domestic violence – that is present in all of their lives – by interrogating himself, his friends, his family.
This need to understand leads him not only to reflect on the personal effect this violence has, but also on the socioeconomical circumstances that lead to it in the first place. It feels almost like a quest, the way he digs into the subject – and relates it to many other things. There are moments where he touches on racism and poverty, hinting at the fact that so many things are interconnected. Above all this means looking at what it means to be a man under the circumstances and whether it is possible to navigate becoming one without falling into some of the traps.
At the end of the film, I really wasn’t ready for it to be over. I didn’t want to leave those boys and their story. I wanted to know how things continued in the meantime, although there isn’t actually all that much time that has passed since the film was finished. I do hope that we will get to see it someday.
Summarizing: I hope there will be a sequel soon. And I hope that Liu makes many more films.