Bing Liu’s Oscar-nominated documentary, Minding the Gap, begins by following the lives of group of skateboarders who find solace in being able to get out and skate when life gets too much. But the film is about so much more than it appears to be at first glance, delving into wider issues like masculinity and domestic violence, and how cycles repeat themselves through generations.
Liu follows friends Zack and Kiere over crucial moments of their lives. Zack has moved in with his young girlfriend, Nina, and they end up having a baby together, and Kiere is nearly 18 and struggling with the effect that his recently deceased father has had on him, a man who was disciplinary to the point of abuse.
Minding the Gap is careful in its handling of such topics, but it’s also mature in the sense that it doesn’t condone the actions of friends simply because they are friends; Liu is involved in these peoples’ lives, but keeps a certain distance, allowing subjects to speak for themselves and for the audience to take away from it without being told what to think.
It’s amazing to see the focus of a film evolve and change on screen, with the director shifting his focus from the love of skating to domestic abuse patterns in Rockford, Illinois, and eventually turning the camera onto himself and his mother, both of whom were victims of violence in the home, in a raw and highly affecting interview scene.
Minding the Gap is an intelligent documentary with an emotional core that is rare to find in a film about dudes hanging out on their boards and drinking beer. Liu has turned such a personal experience into a considered and important piece of filmmaking that everyone should aim to see.
CAST: Bing Liu, Zack Mulligan, Kiere Johnson
DIRECTOR: Bing Liu
WRITER: Bing Liu
SYNOPSIS: Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust-Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship.