Notes on MINDING THE GAP

Webpage for Bing Liu's Minding the Gap 

Nike's: Skateboarding is Not a Crime commercial


The Document:
 Return to Rockford


Hollywood Reporter Roundtable: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Bing Liu, Rashida Jones


Bing Liu interviewed by Salon


Bing Liu on The Daily Show


A.O. Scott; New York Times

They grew up together in Rockford, Ill., three boys united by their love of skateboarding. At a certain point — around middle school, it seems — one of them, Bing Liu, began videotaping their exploits.
 A pleasure of Minding the Gap, his astonishing debut feature, is to observe how skating and filmmaking flow together. As the young men get stronger, bolder and more dexterous, Mr. Liu’s camera skills keep pace, and he captures the sense of risk, freedom and creativity that makes their pastime more than just a hobby. 
It’s not only the glue that binds them to one another through tough times but also a source of identity and meaning, a way of life and a life saver. “Minding the Gap” is more than a celebration of skateboarding as a sport and a subculture. With infinite sensitivity, Mr. Liu delves into some of the most painful and intimate details of his friends’ lives and his own, and then layers his observations into a rich, devastating essay on race, class and manhood in 21st-century America.
Daniel FienbergThe Hollywood Reporter:
Liu is in a unique position because he's become almost a priest hearing confessions, forcing him to ponder the line between dispassionate filmmaker and concerned friend, while also looking for the right opportunity to get his mother on camera for a talk they've never had about their unspoken family secrets.
Michael Phillips; Chicago Tribune:
Around the midpoint Liu turns to his own part of the story. He interviews his mother, born in China as was the director, drawing out her memories of Liu’s abusive stepfather. The director’s half-brother, Kent, appears briefly on camera as well, recalling the “unnerving screams of anguish” coming from his sibling’s room at night. 
Much of “Minding the Gap” is painful to witness, but as past and present intersect and recombine and Liu’s wealth of footage coalesces, the finished film becomes a cautiously hopeful and even cathartic experience. It’s fully responsive as cinema. Liu, who served as editor along with Josh Altman, deploys the lyric skateboarding interludes just often enough to keep everything flowing. Akin to Michael Apted’s “7 Up” series, or Richard Linklater’s narrative feature “Boyhood,” at one point we see Zack hurtle through a few formative years in a lovely video montage. Life is beautiful, and cruel, and this film is a dialectic between the harshness and the beauty.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
As most of the critics describe, Minding the Gap has a deep vein of violence that runs down the center of the film. What's more disturbing is that we see how such violence is perpetuated.  One of Liu’s friends, Zack, has a child with his girlfriend, Nina, when both are just teenagers and we witness the difficulties in their relationship. In a revealing scene, we see the boogieman face to face as Zack tries to explain when it's justifiable to hit a woman.  Until this scene, the abusive men were faceless and lost in the past, but here, we see exactly how the pattern of violence comes full circle and is passed down from one generation to the next. 

It should be noted that the film isn't just about violence. The tone and pace of the editing by Bing Liu and Joshua Altman is what sets this film apart.  In lessor hands, a film like this could come across pedantic or as a tool for self-pity, but we have something else here. The way Liu as a director approaches his friends reminds me of a scene in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket. A character named Dignan is in the middle of a foiled crime with his best friends, and, as we hear the sirens in the distance, he tells them to run away and so the cops chase him instead. His friends are confused and not sure what to do when Dignan interjects, “They’ll never catch me. I’m fucking innocent.”  
It's a curious scene because Dignan isn't innocent of the crime but what Anderson seems to be implying is that Dignan is innocent in intent; innocent at heart.  

Bing Lui's approach in Minding the Gap has an innocence at heart which helps us look at the painful subject matter with both eyes open.  Liu seems more interested in just being present than making a grand statement.  There is something grand about the film, but like with the boys' skating, what occurs never seems premeditated but instead happens organically with balance and grace. 


No comments: