In ‘Skate Kitchen,’ director Crystal Moselle blends skaters’ lives with art
“Skate Kitchen” is screening in the Sundance Film Festival’s Next program. It will be shown at the following locations and times:
- Sunday, Jan. 21, 9:30 p.m., Park City Library
- Monday, Jan. 22, 8:15 a.m., Egyptian Theatre
- Wednesday, Jan. 24, 10 p.m., Redstone 2
- Friday, Jan. 26, 9 p.m., Temple Har Shalom
- Saturday, Jan. 27, 3 p.m., Tower Theatre, Salt Lake City
In “Skate Kitchen,” director Crystal Moselle blurs the line between documentary and narrative cinema.
Best known for her documentary “The Wolf Pack,” the New York-based director found a real group of women skaters and transformed their lives into an amalgam of real and scripted events through her new film, which is set to screen during the Sundance Film Festival. With the exception of Jaden Smith the actors are all skaters playing the roles they live out on a daily basis, over a scaffolding of scripted events that circulate around the theme of youth — its freedoms and challenges — as they try and break into a scene typically dominated by men.
Like most of her projects, Moselle said “Skate Kitchen” came to her.
“I met the girls on the subway, and I just thought one of the girls, Nina, had a voice that silences the room,” she said. “They were talking about being skaters in NYC, how intimidating it can be, and I thought there was something there.”
Originally, Moselle shot a short film about the girls called “That One Day,” and its success at the Venice Film Festival inspired her to push deeper into the subject.
After spending time making “That One Day,” she said she was already familiar with the skating scene and the plan to create a film grew organically and collaboratively between her and the people she filmed.
But she needed to act fast to capture the moment the skaters were living through – pushing new territory and growing into adulthood.
“From 17 to 19, there’s a big shift, and you have to capture it in that moment or the magic goes away,” she said. “I worked vigorously on creating a script last year and everything (fell into place).”
The script did require the use of one actor. As a skater, Smith was on a very short list of actors who Moselle felt would be able to convincingly blend into the film. That was important because in the skating community being a poser is both easily recognized and intensely disparaged.
In the film, Nina Moran, one of the film’s supporting cast members and a “Skate Kitchen” skater, sardonically self-identifies as a poser at one point in the film to illustrate two bystanders’ sexism when they excitedly ask her if she can ollie — the baseline trick in skateboarding.
It’s also a central part of what makes the “Skate Kitchen” crew’s real journey into new skating territory such a big deal, both on and off film. Any crew coming into a new park or area runs the possibility of being called posers, but the “Skate Kitchen” crew also contended with ridicule as a vector of sexism, as skaters assume they cannot shred because they’re women and are therefore posers, or dismiss their abilities regardless.
The film chronicles, among other thing, how the crew advances into these gendered areas, and Moselle hopes viewers are inspired by the crew’s pioneering attitude.
“I think that it’s always interesting to see people changing the game, so to speak,” she said. “I hope that it inspires not only women but men to do things they are traditionally not supposed to do. Like girls don’t skateboard – we’re changing that narrative.”
By adding the scripted parts, Moselle hopes to create something true and momentous without abandoning the beauty that planning and multiple takes bring to the table. Think of it like new journalism for movies.
“I think that it’s like you’re getting to see realism in a new way, a cinematic way,” she said.
Through collaborations with skaters, she used real events — fights at the skate park, discussions about periods — to reconstruct their world on the screen. And if it’s not real enough for some viewers, they can check out the roots of the film, and find the skaters from the screen shredding in real time on their Instagram, contributing to the handle TheSkateKitchen.
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A special screening of Elizabeth Lo’s “Stray” will set the stage for a Nuzzles & Co. fundraiser.