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Filmed and edited in intimate vérité style, this movie follows visionary medical practitioners who are working on the cutting edge of life and death and are dedicated to changing our thinking about both.
Your whole life society tells you, like 'oh, be a man, and you are strong and you are tough and margaritas are gay' you know, like. You know. You don't grow up thinking that's the way you are. When you're a kid, you just do, you just act and then somewhere along the line, everyone loses that.
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In Rockford, Illinois, the lives three young male friends (all of different racial backgrounds) and their families are the subject of this documentary focusing on the town's history of high unemployment, financial hardship, and domestic violence and how this affects individual lives. One of the friends, Bing Liu, is also the director and interviewer of the film.
The film footage takes place over a number of years. The beginning shows the boys as teenage skateboard experts. The first impression is that this is a skateboard doc but it doesn't take long for the film to show its true depth. The testimonies of the abuse from the subjects regarding husbands / partners / fathers / step-fathers have much in common but are also unique. One of the commonalities is a phrase that has sadly been repeated, in various forms, for decades: "yes, he can be terribly mean but when he's nice, he's really so sweet". In one such case, the abuse is subtle as the voice of an unseen man gives an "order" to his female partner who is being interviewed.
The film's boldest moments include those focusing on one of the young men (Zack) who is starting to fall into this negative pattern. What he's doing is wrong but the viewer has already felt compassion for him from previous excerpts. A film-maker is at his/her best when the viewer is left with conflicting feelings such as this case.
"Minding the Gap" has many strong qualities. One is that its creator is not from the outside looking in but one of the insiders. To maintain composure and seem neutral to the history that is so close to him is remarkable.
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