The Oscar nominated documentary Minding the Gap - opening at the Showroom Cinema this Friday - explores the gap between fathers and sons, between discipline and domestic abuse, and between childhood and adulthood.
The film is an extraordinary achievement. Shot over 12 years by first time filmmaker Bing Liu, it documents his group of skateboarding friends as they grow from youthful teenagers with troubled home lives but relatively few responsibilities, to the threshold of adulthood – with some of them beginning to start their own families.
The film sits firmly in the tradition of great longitudinal documentary studies filmed over an extended period of time - like Michael Apted’s celebrated Up series, or Steve James’ Oscar nominated Hoop Dreams.
Like those works, the film is a triumph of editing. It’s a film about the way time and experience weathers an individual, the way it shapes them into the person they become, and the impact of trauma and domestic abuse across generations.
As with both the Up series and Hoop Dreams there’s something utterly compelling and miraculous about this accumulation of experience - and the compression of this experience – that the medium of film allows. It imbues seemingly ordinary lives with the kind of significance and import normally found in works of fiction.
Layer upon layer of memories and experiences, hopes, dreams and fears, stack up against one another in a great palimpsest of life.
Bing skilfully weaves these moments together, finding parallels and resonances between the boys’ earlier years and their transition into adulthood.
But the film doesn’t only dwell on the negative. It is also a joyous, life affirming work about the power of friendship and community, and the healing power of sports.
The boys talk frequently about the way in which skateboarding affords them the opportunity to escape from their troubled family lives; painted on Keire’s skateboard are the words “this device cures heartache.” And the skateboarding sequences, shot with an extraordinary grace, dynamism and fluidity, powerfully convey the sense of weightlessness and joy that skateboarding provides them.
It allows them to break free - even if only temporarily - and build strength and resilience outside of their frequently toxic home lives.
Minding the Gap won the coveted Audience Award at the 2018 Sheffield Doc/Fest. Doc/Fest will be presenting a special screening of the film with an extended introduction at the Showroom Cinema on Monday the 25th of March at 6pm. For more info, and to book tickets, please visit: https://www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/minding-the-gap-docnights