Watched a profoundly moving documentary called Minding the Gap about three boys in Rockford, Illinois.
The boys are all, in their respective ways, victims of the Rustbelt’s economic decline and the curiously defensive toxic masculinity that such environments engender.
The black kid, Keire, reminded me so much of Justin, I thought my heart would break.
The white kid, Zack, amiable, charismatic, self-destructive, could be Cooper.
(I’m not sure why coming-of-age tales about boys move me so much more than equivalent stories about girls. That’s always been the case even before I became the mother of two sons.)
The documentary was made by the third skateboarder, a Chinese-American boy named Bing.
The opening shots of the film are skateboarding scenes—Bing follows the antics of his pals, presumably with a camera phone, as he skates alongside them. But the dizzying, gliding, joyous skateboard ballets they perform are a way of coping with the violence and trauma and economic dislocation of their lives. They were all beaten as children, and skateboarding is their escape.
Of course, there is never any escape from childhood trauma; it shapes you, and molds you, and limits the spectrum of your possible responses in ways you cannot possibly imagine.
Bing’s impersonal act of recording becomes a personal act of remembering, and in doing so, he compels Keire and Zack to remember, too. Possibly in a transformative way. Bing becomes a filmmaker whose documentary—the very one we are watching—is the toast of Sundance. (He was just 22 when Minding the Gap was released.) Keire moves to Denver where one suspects his upbeat post-racial persona will have a much easier time of it. Charming Zack stays in Rockford, and watching the movie, you know he is just doomed.
Anyway, a great movie.
Apart from that, listening to the distant train whistles blow when I woke up in the middle of the night made me wonder whether distant train whistles weren’t the inspiration for movie background music.
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