Minding the Gap (2018) Poster

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10/10
Unrelenting Honesty
jonspenst30 August 2018
Two really good skateboarding movies came out recently. The first one I got to see, Crystal Moselle's "Skate Kitchen", functioned as a fun semi-documentary that celebrated the friendship forged between a crew of NYC girls making their own space in a predominately male sport. The second one, Bing Liu's "Minding the Gap" took a very different approach to the subject, focusing much deeper on the pain that drove a group of three Midwestern skateboarders together, and how the same wounds would continue to dictate their life both in and outside of skateboarding. Unlike Skate Kitchen, this documentary is not an easy watch. It's by no means a boring watch, as Liu constructs a very cinematic experience both visually and emotionally, but some of the life experiences that the director focuses on can be truly devastating to anyone who has ever experienced anything similar. The characters in this film are real, and you want to see each of them succeed despite the odds stacked against them. I don't want to spoil the story too much, but I will say that there's something in this movie for everyone. It's much less a skateboarding movie than it is a movie about parenthood gone wrong and finding your way in your 20's, which I'm sure a lot of people can relate to. I hope everyone gets to see this film, and I hope everyone has a box of tissues close by.
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10/10
Hoop Dreams on wheels
logancoug16 September 2018
From the breathtaking, fluid camera work to the increasingly brutal, honest emotionality, this documentary is a brilliant piece of work that needs to be seen by all, especially young men for whom this should be mandatory viewing.
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9/10
A skater doc with a deep emotional core, or the other way around?
Movie_Muse_Reviews3 January 2019
Bing Lu's "Minding the Gap" is more than a sleek skateboarding doc that dives into alternative culture; in fact, it might not even be that at all. What probably began as an exercise in Lu turning the camera on himself and his friends blossomed into portrait of middle-American working-class life, specifically three young men who process hardship and deep emotional wounds best while on a skateboard.

Lu, his friend Zack and their younger friend, Kiere are the main subjects of the story, each passionate skaters trying to get by in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois. Piecing together that skating is symptomatic of something deeper between them, Lu decides to probe Zack and Kiere, gently pushing them toward emotional honesty. What he uncovers is a troubling and all-too-true reality that each of them is enduring, a revelation that transforms the entire viewing experience.

The film is full of these subtle, unexpected surprises. Most documentaries make an assertion or hypothesis that the filmmakers explore in depth, and the stories have an intuitive arc to them. "Minding the Gap" takes place over the course of many years and even includes footage from several years earlier, but that's not immediately apparent. Our perception of the story, along with its scope and impact, changes the longer the movie's timeline gets. Essentially, Lu's patience with his story pays off tremendously; letting these characters' lives play out deepens and enriches everything.

Time factors in the most in Zack's tumultuous relationship with Nina. She's pregnant when we meet them, and as their baby boy, Elliott, begins to grow, their lives and their relationship struggles take on a different urgency. Lu captures lots of critical moments in their journey (usually from either his or her perspective separately), which proves vital to the film because so much of the rest is reflective, specifically on Lu and Kiere's childhoods. The Zack-Nina relationship is, in effect, a microcosm of so many of the obstacles, struggles and themes of all the characters' lives.

As personal as the film gets, however, it's also a technical accomplishment. Lu conveys not just the cool, but also the zen of skateboarding that these characters experience through excellent action shots. He and co-editor Joshua Altman nail those movement sequences on top of powerfully stitching together so many different moments and stories. The film sometimes gets so deep into the characters' emotional lives that skateboarding feels irrelevant, but the extent to which skateboarding provides escape and "therapy" as one character puts it sinks completely in by the end.

Here are these men who will gladly risk every limb to land a trick yet are reticent to take emotional risks. Only Lu's close relationship with these subjects allows them to open up. His own sense of an imperative to ask them the tough, honest questions and blur his role between filmmaker and friend/relative creates the film's most powerful material. At a few points, subjects ask him if they should pretend he's not there or talk to him like they're having a conversation, suggesting the strong influence of his dual-role in his film.

Yet "Minding the Gap" is far from self-centered and self-serving. Rather, it is indicative of how some stories can only be collected and recorded by the people who live them. We'll need more brave filmmakers like Lu in order to discover these stories and let their truth find the eyes, ears and hearts of those who identify with and need them most.

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8/10
Great Doc
The_Film_Auditor29 January 2019
After the first 10 minutes of Minding the Gap, I began to wonder why this film was nominated for an Oscar for best Documentary. How could a skateboarding documentary made by a young filmmaker be that great? Well, I was very wrong. This film about skateboarding covered many different issues, including child abuse, drug/alcohol abuse, poverty, teen parenting, racial prejudice/stereotypes, and much more. The documentary did an extraordinary job connecting the audience to the people shown in the film and empathizing with their experiences. The film caused me to think about my life and how fortunate I have been to avoid many of the problems that the young adults in the film have faced in their life. It caused me to reflect on how life altering something like abuse can be. What I thought would be a simple documentary on skateboarding turned out to be a beautiful, thought provoking film.
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7/10
Brave and relevant
proud_luddite10 October 2018
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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10/10
An astonishing and emotionally fruitful masterpiece.
matthewssilverhammer20 February 2019
Forget Mid 90s...THIS is the neo-skate video that announces the emergence of an intense and beautiful filmmaking voice. Using 12 years of home-video-turned-professional footage, we watch how three American teens respond to the cyclical nature of toxic masculinity.
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10/10
introspective, beautiful
alexandraalison25 August 2018
This was so well done!! This was raw and beautiful and intimate. The stories were told so well, and from a perspective you don't often get from other documentaries. Bing and Kiera deserve the world. These boys are amazing !!!!
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10/10
Life in America today
altapwdr17 February 2019
The new middle class. It isn't what television or movies represent, but this documentary does.
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10/10
Gripping, emotional, honest, real
mlanghoff-9916727 January 2019
I registered on the site to write this because I was hungover on a Sunday and looking for skateboarding videos/docs online. I used to skate and cannot now due to a back injury.

I expected something featuring tricks and skate videos, however I received an extremely emotional reaction to a brilliant documentary about real people living through very real issues I have had experienced. The film was made brilliantly and I have highly recommended this to my friends. People who skate and those who don't. A very well done piece. I grew up in the Midwest and knew the struggle of "when is the sidewalk good for skating" with the cabin fever of just wanting to pop an ollie outside.

Brilliant. Highly recommended, especially for anyone that broke out on a skateboard (bike, roller blades, etc) just to get outside when young. This doc is terrificly an underdog.
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8/10
So much talent!
jessellen1820 August 2018
Honestly I didn't find this sort of movie meaning skaters to be my type of documentary. But I love a great thought provoking documentary. It's brilliant and beautiful in so many ways. I totally recommend watching.
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9/10
I'm Touched
legonerdy23 February 2019
I'll keep it short and sweet. This film touched me deep. It hit on so much from my childhood and into adulthood that I couldn't help but connect. I hope it takes every Oscar it's up for.
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10/10
skateboarding as an escape
lee_eisenberg24 January 2019
Bing Liu's "Minding the Gap", currently nominated for Best Documentary Feature, looks at some young men who are into skateboarding as an escape from their dead-end lives. These guys are really into it, but at the same time we see that their existences are stuck in a rut. They spend a lot of time drinking - and I mean large quantities of beer - and getting into arguments with people. It's as if there's no incentive to aspire to anything in this miserable world.

Anyway, a fine documentary. The director takes an incisive look at these men whom he's known for years. I recommend it.
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8/10
View Your Own Way and Enjoy
daoldiges31 December 2018
I initially struggled with my reaction to Minding The Gap. On one hand I had the impression that I didn't enjoy this film because I didn't have the reaction that many of it's fans seemed to have, which was my initial reaction to another referenced documentary from one reviewer, Hoop Dreams. Those fans talk about how they found the film 'devastating', or 'emotionally blown-away', or 'heartbreaking'. To my mind those emotions can only come from a place of sympathy or empathy. However, for me while I did have those feelings toward some of the characters in Minding The Gap, I did not feel it toward all of the characters, nor necessarily to the film as a whole. I did still find Minding The Gap wonderfully interesting, and therefor entertaining too. I am still a fan of this film and do recommend checking it out, but want to say that it's OK not to love or feel sympathy, or badly for the plight of all of it's characters.
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10/10
This movie broke my heart and mended it back again. All in 1 h 33 min.
okookano-4247928 February 2019
Three main characters, Zack, Keire and Bing, friends bonded by their love for skateboarding but also by child abuse, growing up in dysfunctional homes, racism, alcoholism, losing a loved one and much more. A must see! Free Solo was my absolute favorite to win an Oscar for best Documentary Feature but Minding the Gap is right up there with it, I would call it a tie. The young director showed the world how to channel all the anguish and pain into helping himself, his family and his friends and their families heal. I wish him and his friends all the best. A fan from Belgrade, Serbia.
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7/10
Personal and intimate, Minding the Gap is a good movie confronting a few domestic violence situations
andrewroy-0431622 February 2019
While it didn't quite impact my mindset broadly towards domestic violence as it did to many, I did feel a connection to the three main characters. I got a strong sense of how each character struggled to overcome their difficult pasts, but didn't get a sense of why domestic violence happens or the psychology of it. It did open my eyes to its prevalence as well as the general challenges of Rockford, and I related and cared about the characters, but I don't feel like I understand domestic violence any better. Zack and the neutral, honest way he is framed and his story progresses really hit home and was the strongest part of the movie for me. I found some of the sequences in changing focus and telling stories that only connect in a few moments to mentally readjust at various points. The editing and skateboarding shots were gorgeous, but skateboarding, while clearly an important escape for the boys, is rarely explicitly discussed. I found some threads that were considered early to be left alone, and others to become prevalent after not being set up early. I did find the ending and third act in general to be excellent and touching. It's a well made documentary that a wide audience should see, and I'm happy to see it get the critical recognition it has.
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Really well done
Red_Identity12 December 2018
The film's ability to really dig deep into its characters and real-life situations is brilliant.
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10/10
Technically very well done with great cinematography and editing
Ex3vd5 February 2019
It's a relief when we find something to do that we can put our problems away, even it's a little bit, for a moment, and this story is about that, it starts when three guys find on skate a way to get over of the problems.

The natural connection between these guys story is impressing and grows up even more during the film, always real, the plan of Bing Liu really works with this documentary, and this is really appreciative. I wish all the best for these guys.
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8/10
Wow
joelfahey4 February 2019
This documentary was awesome. Spent too long trying write review. Just watch it!
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7/10
MINDING THE GAP: A COMMUNITY PORTRAIT?
babyjaguar22 January 2019
At a recent film screening Q/A session, Bing Liu (directed and wrote the documentary) discussed his inspiration. In his talk with the interviewer, the topic of skateboarding as a white middle-class past time was mentioned and how lower economic youth are now embracing it. He discussed what "tropes" he used within the chosen style of documenting his friends' personal narratives.

Liu's documentary efforts tried to showcase a small circle of childhood friends, each has an opportunity to tell their story of teen angst. Most of these stories are based in Rockford, Illinois, it described only briefly, as an abandoned small city. Their suburban problems based within classism and domestic violence.

Although one can appreciate the human narrative, Liu could have delved into "why" Rockford has evolved into most low economic and disadvantaged place (as stated in the film's beginning). Instead, it uses the topic of skateboarding as a way that these young adults as teens dealt with problems (this is probably why the film has gotten popular). Since one may think that skateboarding is the main focus, it seems to work as a marketing tool to get the film screened.

In the end, this is a nice baby-step but again Liu could have delved into the "why" Rockford teens went through issues of class, gender and race, maybe he has a plan to make a follow-up.
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10/10
Amazingly filmed, intelligent perspective, and perfectly edited
monica-8667321 April 2019
Watch this film before watching Mid 90s. Then, watch it again after watching Mid 90s. I love this film! I liked Mid 90s, and I do think it was well written and directed by Jonah Hill. Having already seen Minding the Gap before Mid 90s, it almost seemed like Mid 90s was based on Minding the Gap. The characters in Mid 90s are given more conflict, the main character is a cute kid and is also given an interesting storyline, However, you can't beat the reality of the real story in Minding the Gap. My favorite is Keire because of his laughter that underlies everything he says even when he is talking about sad stuff. I found myself hoping he would never lose that trait. I wanted to see more of him in the future so I could see if he kept it. The perspective presented through the lens of Bing Liu, the director,and filmmaker, is so intelligently done. I could even see the baby's emotion in the film. He was upset when he thought his parents might be fighting again in one of the scenes. It feels like you are watching something that was deeply important to Bing Liu, and through it he was able to tell a story of people who may have never been noticed, show us their importance, while releasing himself from his own pain.
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10/10
Experiencing others pain
marc_baker117 April 2019
I'm not a skateboarder, did not grow up under difficult circumstances, have a father I am proud of and feel I've done ok as a father myself.

There should be no reason for me to connect with this film. Yet I did in a very strong way. Mr. Liu showed me his subjects' pain and did it in such an honest way. As he says to his friend, Kiere, at one point - I see myself in your story. He is just exploring and trying to find an answer to his own pain through the mediums he knows - skateboarding and filmmaking.

The third act climax for each subject is painful and heart wrenching. I'm thankful that Mr. Liu shared this with us.
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9/10
Bing Liu has pulled off an amazing trick indeed.
oliver24430 March 2019
Skateboarding is usually a hobby that crops up in most adolescent males as they grow up. Whether it's a passing fad, a passion, or a serious sport, the boys of the past couple of generations have had some experience with it. I tried it myself thanks to the addictive exuberance of the Tony Hawk series of videogames on the Playstation 1, before quickly giving it up when the crushing reality that it requires a huge amount of effort to master became apparent. But there are people in which skateboarding sinks its claws so deeply into that it becomes a vital part of their existence, and Minding the Gap is a documentary about three of those people.

There is a wonderful and frank intimacy to Minding the Gap thanks to its personal relation to director Bing Liu, who is one of the three young skateboarders the film focuses on. The other two are his best friends Keire and Zack, who all live in Rockford, Illinois; a city which has seen much better days. We see them as fearless children, fooling around as teenagers and eventually as young adults struggling to grow up and find their own paths. We see their best and worst times, their loves and their fears, and how the act of skating together would temporarily free them of their problems.

Watching it feels like watching a home movie, and some of the footage captured is exactly that, but Liu manages to retain an intensely focused narrative that weaves an impressively complex tapestry of his life and his friends. This is due to Liu's determination to shed light on his experiences, which includes facing the traumatizing abuse he suffered from his stepfather. His friends experienced similar hardships and what starts as a skateboarding documentary slowly turns into something much more serious. There are questions raised about the cyclical effect of the neglect or abuse they all suffered, especially with Zack, who is a struggling new father and often feels a fraud. Kiere seems utterly lost in his new adult world where he must find a job, and the film demonstrates the severe problems caused by male emotional suppression through Kiere. Meanwhile, Bing himself bravely sits down with his mother in a heartbreaking interview to try and heal past scars.

It's miraculous that Minding the Gap never feels self-serving or preachy, but it simply never does. It's a sensitive study on manhood in today's climate peppered with keen observations on race and class to boot, whilst also celebrating the culture of skateboarding and it's therapeutic qualities. Speaking of skateboarding, the film is layered with a series of sublime sequences of the three friends skating and pulling off impressive tricks through Rockford. Set to a soothing score by Nathan Halpern and Chris Ruggiero, the liberating feeling from this subculture really shines through better than any film I've seen on the subject.

Minding the Gap might not be what you expect from a "skateboarding documentary" as it meanders unexpectedly through various hard-hitting subjects, but it never feels misjudged or ill-considered. Quite the opposite actually; the entire canvas of ideas shot through Bing Liu's camera fits so perfectly it'll hit you like a ton of bricks. Sensational.
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An Honest, Intimate, Heartfelt, Poignant & Self-Reflexive Essay
CinemaClown20 March 2019
A fascinating insight into the lives of three friends bonded by their mutual love & passion for skateboarding, Minding the Gap is an awe-inspiring coming-of-age story, a delicately layered social commentary, and an honest, gripping & unrelenting piece of documentary filmmaking; all rolled into one amusing, stirring & emotionally resonant essay.

A passion project that's 12 years in the making, the film explores race, class, friendship, manhood & domestic trauma with its self-reflective narrative, and also marks an impressive debut for director Bing Liu who puts together vignettes of his own life & that of his friends into a poignant portrait that's crafted with genuine care, told with heartfelt intimacy & exhibits a surprising depth in its rendition.
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7/10
Sometimes we need to step into the shade to see the light
garygwilliams28 April 2018
Bing will be a filmmaker Here we see a first effort that has garnered great acclaim but is a very flawed work He and his friends are great stories of success and tragedy It has a very real feel and texture that bring you into their world The problem for me is it falls somewhere between biography and social commentary so it fails at both It reminds me of Get Out, the breakthrough film for Jordan Peele, a good but not great effort only because the story tries to tell itself instead of the filmmaker telling the story he wants to convey
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3/10
Why was this nominated???
areathinkable12 February 2019
I'm really not understanding why this was nominated. Unlike what others are saying, the camera work isn't all that great. Some scenes are decently shot, but at times, the viewer is left watching terrible home videos complete with shaky cam. The subject matter is dull, and the people in the documentary offer nothing original or insightful. It's difficult to care about most of the characters because they're the losers you steered clear of in high school. These are their woe-is-me stories. It's refreshing when you see someone succeed after having had a violent or rough start in life: this is not that documentary. The documentary drags on, because there's absolutely no storyline or purpose. The best part of this documentary was that it finally ended.
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