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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Guldner

Skate Kitchen (2018) Director Crystal Moselle's documentary style narrative of skater girl culture.

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

I had the great pleasure of watching Skate Kitchen (2018) at the first ever FFFEST film festival (women's film festival)  in downtown Los Angeles this past month. Following the film, director Crystal Moselle spoke about the process of creating her epic film about the lives of skater girls in NYC. It started out with curiosity, a conversation she was intently listening in on the subway. The conversation prompted her to ask if these girls would be interested in being in a short film about their lives. What turned into a short became a full feature and the amazing thing about this film was that it was an authentic representation of these girls lives.

In order to prepare for the film Moselle became somewhat of a dorm mother for over a year before shooting began.  Hanging out doing palates, eating, sleeping, talking and skating with these girls in order to build up a rapport that translates on film.  They did take acting classes but their mannerisms, street style and skateboarding are who they really are. What comes across is a narrative film with a documentary feel.

The most important image running through out the film are that of  the little girls who  walk by clutching their mother's hands and turn around to take a better look at these young girls in all of their skateboarding glory. What I took from that imagery of the little girls  looking up  in awe at these teenagers skateboarding,  is the biggest thing missing in so many coming of age films about young girls. When a young girl can see something bigger than themselves, connect, and identify with an action that has no merit in societal gender stereotypes, there is reason to celebrate. If she can do it I can do it. We can be who we want to be. But not so fast there is always the status quo to contend with.

Our protagonist Camille played by Rachelle Vinberg  a lonely teenager who lives on the outskirts of the city  with her single mom played by Elizabeth Rodriguez is in a constant tug of war with her mom. When Camille has an accident on her board in the beginning of the film she bleeds from her vagina, as she hits herself on the hard concrete. The first thing her mother thinks of saying to Camille is how important it is for her to become a mother one day and she is fearful she may hurt herself skateboarding and do reproductive harm. The more Camille's mom takes away Camille's ability to skateboard, the more Camille resents her and pushes her away. Camille goes so far as to run away and that is when her freedom and growth begin as a young girl seeking refuge from what her mother wants her to be and who she naturally is becoming. Camille goes from being an isolated teenager to learning about the interpersonal dynamics of female and male friendships. Nothing comes easy for Camille, she doesn't seem to be able to get a fair shake. Her nativity and lack of sexual experience come through when she starts to interact at skate parties and watches the other kids experimenting with sex and drugs. She wants to fit in but it can be painful when you don't have a real sense of how it all works. The world can be isolating and overwhelming even when you think you may have found your tribe, but at such a tender age they really don't know who they are either, and Moselle's film does an amazing job of keeping it authentic with no real Hollywood ending. Yet, we expect Camille's character to  stay true to herself and in that we have the hope to know  she will ultimately find her way.

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