September 10, 2018

VIEW | 'Minding the Gap' Documents Life

"Skateboarding is more of a family than my family."
Keire Johnson Bing Liu | Minding the Gap

Minding the Gap starts as one story that carefully reveals itself as another. The documentary film proves to be such an expressive portrait of wholesome looking but deeply troubled individuals as teenagers growing up in the increasingly destitute and crime-ridden town of Rockford, Illinois.

First-time filmmaker and cinematographer Bing Liu documents his childhood friends and himself as they struggled through various socioeconomic stresses and cycles of domestic abuse. The three boys featured—one Caucasian (Zack Mulligan), one African-American (Keire Johnson), and one Asian (Bing himself)—are bonded by their obsession with skateboarding as a subculture and release for their frustrations while creating a makeshift family of their own.

It's truly impressive how Liu honed his DIY filmmaking skills with such first-rate cinematic amateur home video footage of him and his friends skateboarding through their hometown throughout their teenage years and well into young adulthood. In part very much a personal diary, the documentary impeccably expresses the personalities featured.

Bing Liu | Minding the Gap

Skateboarding feels like such a perfect representation of the boys' community that crosses racial lines but that's clearly focused on class struggle in the heartland. The recreational activity acts as not only a visually fluent transition but a therapeutic escape from their personal and family problems.

The documentary flawlessly explores how the cyclical nature of domestic trauma and hardships of working-class Americans are passed down from parents to children. It also questions their potential culpability in perpetuating that same form of trauma while clearly documenting its debilitating effects.

Liu's film and friends are such an interesting multiethnic encapsulation of the results of generational toxic masculinity and abuse passed down predominantly from fathers to sons. It's a powerful and sensitive portrait of boys growing up in an American ghost town.

Minding the Gap was featured at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival and screens as part of the Vancouver International Film Centre's year-round programming at Vancity Theatre until September 16th.


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