Zack Mulligan and Keire Johnson appear in Minding the Gap by Bing Liu, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Bind Liu.
Minding the Gap has been on my most anticipated list for quite a bit of time, but I actually didn’t know much about the film besides it being a documentary about a group of young adults who bond over skateboarding. I was fascinated because in 2018 we have three skateboarding-centric films—the others being Skate Kitchen and Mid90s—and I am lucky to review one of the three. Before I begin I will say, yes this is one of the must watch indies of 2018. Earlier this week I wrote that Minding the Gap is a true portrait of youth becoming adults while still coping with their past, and I meant it.
I have to give a major shoutout to the director, Bing Liu. I am blown away that the director of this film is actually a key part of the documentary and is also amazingly talented for his age. It is very impressive to see someone go from making awesome skateboard montages and videos to winning an award at the Sundance Film Festival. Before I get into the heavy stuff, I must praise the filming techniques. As someone who used to skate with his friends in high school (yes, I was that black kid who got on longboards and watched skateboard videos), I appreciate the craft of his camera work and their skills as skateboarders.
The film centers on Bing Liu and his close friends, who all bonded over skateboarding and escaping from their family problems. What you don’t realize is how these family problems are actually tragic and would break most people. Even as they mature into young adults, you see how their pasts have influenced them, and how they treat others around them.
We have Zach, a White American who is the oldest of the group trying to balance adulthood, fatherhood while trying to maintain his party side, but we all know something has to give. Then there is Keire, the only African American in the group, and the one who has to balance not only being a misfit but racially profiled by not only cops but by upper management. Finally, you have the director himself, Bing, who is an Asian American with a dark past of child abuse that hasn’t healed, and honestly, I don’t blame him.
There is a realness to this film that only makes me sadder because they aren’t the only ones dealing with this type of pain and sadness. Not everyone is lucky enough to find friends or a passion to find escapism in. When Bing starts dropping the stats on Rockford, the hometown of the trio and the setting of the film, you realize there is not much of worth in this city. There is a reason why everyone leaves Rockford, and it kind of reminds me of my hometown. Either you leave or you find yourself stuck in an endless cycle.
I didn’t expect Minding the Gap to leave such a big impression on me. As a young adult I relate to the subject matter, and when you find out what these people went through your heart aches for them. Bing Liu is a filmmaker to watch, and I am quite interested in what his next project will cover. For people looking for their next American Honey or Lean on Pete, look no further.
Minding the Gap is now currently streaming on Hulu.