Monday, 23 July 2018

Minding The Gap: NZIFF Review

Minding The Gap: NZIFF Review

It's possibly fair to say that Bing Liu's debut documentary film was never planned to be anything more than capturing stolen moments of boys-being-boys, skateboarding and shooting the breeze in small town America.

But what emerges from the film, once it settles from its initial shots of kerb-hopping and open-road boarding and divests into life, is a fascinating, maddening and saddening portrait of what it means to be a boy, and how it is to grow up a man these days.

Thrusting the camera on Zack and Keire, and himself, Bing Liu's film finds a horrific connection that goes deeper than simply half-piping and boarding. Some of it comes from Zack feeling he's been forced into being a man, when his girlfriend becomes pregnant; and some of it comes from when Keire starts to feel lost, looking to his past for answers, and some of it comes from Liu himself looking to his past.
Minding The Gap: NZIFF Review

It may sound gimmicky but what occurs organically in this film is a wealth of paradigm shifts, each more subtle than the last, but each with more resounding consequences than are to be expected.

It's also a study of middle American life, of towns abandoned and of prospects unlikely; there's a depressing lyricism to what unfolds as the lads go from initial jackassing around on camera to waxing lyrical about where it went wrong or where it's going. Hope is randomly allocated in Zack and Keire's lives, but there's much to be gained from what seem to outside viewing like small victories for flighty spirits such as Zack.

Keire's trajectory is as interesting as Zack's too, as he faces what it means to be African-American in among his friends - in many ways, this is seismic stuff softly explored on the screen and subtly worth engaging with.

Minding the Gap is not a doco where bombs are dropped, more where hints of minor frustrations and realisations occur - but in their universality, these are compellingly and precisely told for the most part. There's a feeling one conflict is sadly left unexplored, but equally that confrontation is another consequence of friendship and boundaries.

Ultimately, Minding the Gap is a human take on where boys struggle with being men, and where toxic masculinity resides ; poignant, powerful and prescient, it's a documentary that lingers long after.

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