When filmmaker Bing Liu was a younger man shooting skateboarding videos of himself and two best friends Zack and Keire in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois, he likely didn’t realize that years later he would use that footage, as well as more deeply personal interviews with the two and many of their closest friends and family to compile a portrait of broken homes, domestic abuse, and undeniable impact of role models — both good and bad. While skateboarding begins as the central focus of the resulting documentary, Minding the Gap, it eventually becomes the much-needed escape from the real world for this kids — a real world that includes alcoholism and getting his girlfriend pregnant for Zack, and losing his father and coming to grips with being the only African-American kid among his group of friends for Keire.

Minding the Gap, which won a Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Documentary Filmmaking and has additionally won countless Best Documentary and Audience awards along the 2018 festival circuit, explores the grueling transformation from adolescence to adulthood, made all the more painful since these three are exceptional on their boards and must give up their time a skate parks in order to get jobs to support themselves and their loved ones. There’s a confessional tone to the project that Liu himself takes part in when he interviews his mother about her abusive second husband, who mercilessly disciplined him as a child.

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