December 6, 2018

GENRE | Girl Power – 'Skate Kitchen' Flips Out

"Skate or die, bitch!"
Rachelle Vinberg Crystal Moselle | Skate Kitchen

The Wolfpack documentary filmmaker Crystal Moselle makes her feature narrative debut taking inspiration from the all-female New York teen skateboarding collective to dramatize Skate Kitchen as a sweetly appealing story. Focused firmly on passion-based friendships developed through shared interests, Moselle's hypnotic film is bursting with artistic talent dramatizing real-life experiences.

Newcomer Rachelle Vinberg stars as shy eighteen-year-old Camille, a listless Long Island teen who travels into the city to meet up with like-minded young female skaters. Their bond over skate tricks and kickflips deftly personify the ambivalent attitudes towards the patriarchal life they're inheriting. The social milieu and film's construction takes the lives of its characters rather seriously in order to understand their experiences.

Co-starring an all-female cast of real-life skaters from the group of the same name, Skate Kitchen's careful docudrama approach and subtle performances frame the film with an authentic quality throughout from its sometimes awkward improvisational dialogue to the frank depiction of casual sex and drug use.

As the pack bonds and cares for each other as a means of self-preservation, the level of comfort grows as their skateboarding antics proves a clever metaphor for control of their bodies and female empowerment. The effortless portrayal of young women teaching each other how to be women is especially affecting.

Rachelle Vinberg Crystal Moselle | Skate Kitchen

Both Elizabeth Rodriguez and a red-headed Jaden Smith as Camille's firey, overprotective Spanish-speaking single mother and troubled skater rival/crush as the only two real professional actors of note in the film make their inclusion fit in with the rest of the non-actors rather seamlessly. They bridge the documentary-like elements with the more scripted scenes together fluidly.

Full of scenic shots of the talented young skateboarders flying through the streets of New York City, the naturalistic yet artful style captured by cinematographer Shabier Kirchner takes the lonely spirit of the in-between of adolescence and burgeoning adulthood so abstractly. Sounds of crunching on pavement and wheels rolling through noisy settings populate the sounds of the film further creating a rich world mirroring both the isolation and comradery the characters feel.

Skate Kitchen proves a fascinating exploration of New York's many skateboarding subcultures using Moselle's lyrical filmmaking skills to craft a compelling but loose narrative around alternative bonds of sisterhood. Its naturally feminist bent and themes only add to the authentic feel of young female adult life in the city for the contemporary counterculture crew.

Skate Kitchen is available to stream on various digital platforms and through video on demand.

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Exclaim / Globe and Mail / Indiewire / Tyee

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