TV Review – Minding the Gap
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Bing Liu is a Chinese-American filmmaker from Rockford, Illinois, who has been documenting three skateboarders in his town since they were teenagers. One of those teenagers happens to be himself. What starts out as a glimpse into skating culture quickly turns into an exposé into the three skaters’ lives. Unfortunately, it’s not the exposé that it perhaps should have been. Liu reveals that each person involved in his movie is also involved with the issue of domestic abuse or domestic violence. The list of persons involved in that violence expands beyond the initial three, but violence clearly becomes his focus. That issue though feels tertiary or at a bit of a remove. In some way, he skates over it.
Kiere Johnson (pictured above) is a young African-American whose father passed away, but Johnson says his father was tough on him. His mother is currently dating a man who is implied to be abusive, but we never dig into it. We never even see this man’s face. There isn’t even pictures of Johnson’s father. Johnson talks about his father, but his father remains a vague presence that never feels solid. One wishes it were solid because that’s what the core of this is, that father-son relationship.
Zack Mulligan is a young white American who also talks about his dad being tough on him, but Mulligan is a father himself. It’s revealed that Mulligan is as much a victim as he is a victimizer. He abuses his girlfriend and Liu never really confronts him on it. Liu does get him to speak on it, but not in a way that feels confrontational.
This would be fine, if Liu weren’t seemingly confrontational in other ways, or in one specific way. Liu interviews his mother in this film. He does so in a way that’s different from the way he interviews almost everyone else. For starters, Liu didn’t shoot the interview himself, whereas all the other interviews were shot by Liu. His mother’s interview though is framed and staged in a way that feels colder and distant. There literally is distance between Liu and his mother in the scene, whereas Liu is always comfy and cozy next to all the other interviews, including Mulligan.
Liu’s mother made mistakes during Liu’s childhood like exposing him and his brother to an abusive stepfather. However, it’s no question that Liu’s mother is a victim herself. Yet, Liu indicts her by the way he frames and photographs her that is far more harsh than how he frames and photographs Mulligan. Even though Mulligan is by his own admission an abuser of women, Liu still is more comfortable and cozy and in fact more loving of Mulligan than his own mother.
However, the skateboarding scenes are very well done. Liu will often follow the skaters on a skateboard himself. Liu will hold the camera on a rig or steadicam-like device, as he skates along side his subjects, capturing them in their natural state as part of the scene as well. It’s a more intimate approach and that’s appreciated.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 33 mins.
Available on Hulu.