Ticket Information: Free and Open to the Public
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courtesy of press kit:
Welcome to Rockford, Illinois, in the heart of Rust-Belt America, home to debut filmmaker Bing Liu. With over 12 years of footage, Bing discovers connections between two of his skateboarder friends’ volatile upbringings and the complexities of modern-day masculinity. As the film unfolds, Bing captures 23-year-old Zack’s tumultuous relationship with his girlfriend deteriorate after the birth of their son and 17-year-old Keire struggling with his racial identity as he faces new responsibilities following the death of his father. While navigating a difficult relationship between his camera and his friends, Bing weaves a story of generational forgiveness while exploring the precarious gap between childhood and adulthood.
Minding The Gap won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and is executive produced by Oscar-nominated documentarian Steve James (The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams). Bing Liu, who developed the film through Chicago’s Kartemquin Films, also serves as producer alongside Diane Quon, and as editor alongside Joshua Altman. Hulu and Magnolia Films will release the film on August 17, 2018 ahead of a POV broadcast in 2019.
courtesy of press kit:
Minding the Gap started as a survey film about skateboarders’ relationships with their fathers and snowballed into a verite story exploring something much more personal.
I was 8 years old when my single mother took a job in Rockford, Illinois, an old factory city two hours west of Chicago. She soon remarried and had a child with an abusive man, remaining with him for 17 years. At age 13 I began skateboarding to escape my house and slowly discovered, after many bruises, broken bones and hard-earned tricks, that I’d regained a sense of control over my body. Perhaps more importantly, I found myself in a group of outcasts much happier in the streets than at home. We spent countless hours together, making our own version of family and, through skate videos, our own version of reality.
Heading into my 20’s, I moved to Chicago and began studying to become an English teacher. After graduating, I worked in the camera department in the cinematographer’s guild and was making short docs on the side—I felt like I’d escaped a dark chapter of my life and didn’t have to look back. But I couldn’t ignore that many of my peers were falling prey to drug addictions, jail sentences, or worse. I was still making skate videos and was experimenting with the form; I had made a skate doc called Look At Me about why skate videographers and photographers struggle with what they do.
While making Look At Me, I discovered a pattern of absent, distant, and abusive father-figures in the skate community—something that affected mental health, relationships, and parenting styles. I decided that’d be the focus of my next project.
After a couple years of interviews with skateboarders from around the country, I brought my new project into a fellowship with Kartemquin Films, where I was introduced to verite style documentaries like Hoop Dreams and Stevie. It was eye-opening. I switched gears from the high-concept survey film I’d envisioned and decided to tell a character-driven verite story.
I continued to film with several skateboarders from St. Louis, Phoenix, Portland, and many other places, trying to figure out which characters to follow. And as I cut rough cut after rough cut, there was one interview that kept sticking out: a 16-year-old African-American boy from my hometown of Rockford named Keire. He’d never talked about his parents before and, when we did our first interview, was fidgeting with the sleeves of his sweater. When he told me about his abusive father, I felt my chest tighten. “Did you cry?” I asked. “Wouldn’t you?” he shot back. “I did cry,” I said. We sat in silence, neither of us daring to attempt a joke.
Over the next four years, I reluctantly weaned other characters out of the film and kept returning to Rockford to continue following Keire as well a charismatic 23-year-old named Zack, who was about to become a father himself. Over time, as I got guidance from my EP Gordon Quinn and from the Kartemquin community in feedback screenings, I also drew inspiration from the films that resonated with me in my adolescence: Gummo, Waking Life, Kids, Slacker—stories that made my chaotic childhood meaningful with their representations of growing up in an uncertain world that somehow left room for hope.
As I had even more feedback screenings, which is how I eventually met my co-producer Diane Quon, people were intrigued at how close I was to the subjects and themes of the film without actually being in it. With their encouragement, I began experimenting with weaving myself in the film, which I struggled with because I didn’t want the project to feel too navel-gazing or self-indulgent.
But then everything changed when (spoiler alert) I find out one of the main characters has become abusive. The heart of the film, which had been exploring how skateboarders deal with masculinity and child abuse , suddenly became much more immediate and personal; I began to have trouble sleeping and started seeing a therapist. Eventually, I realized that I had to become an active and vulnerable participant for a more honest story.
In the course of completing the film, I realized that Zack, Keire and I were all harboring toxic experiences buried under the weight of years of not processing the past, and we all chose our own ways of dealing with that pressure. The film has given me a sense of clarity about myself and how, while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, some ways of coping aren’t sustainable.
What’s clear to me from doing this project is that violence and its sprawling web of effects are perpetuated in large part because these issues remain behind closed doors, both literally and figuratively. My hope is that the characters who open doors in Minding the Gap will inspire young people struggling with something similar—that they will survive their situation, live to tell their story, and create a meaningful life for themselves.
courtesy of press kit:
Bing is a Chicago-based director and cinematographer who Variety Magazine listed as one of 10 documentary filmmakers to watch. His 2018 critically acclaimed documentary Minding the Gap has earned a total of 28 award recognitions since its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where it took home the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking. He is also a segment director on America To Me, a 10-hour documentary series examining racial inequities in America’s education system, set to premiere on Starz. Bing was a member of the International Cinematographers Guild for seven years, working alongside master directors of photography including John Toll, Matthew Libatique, and Wally Pfister. Bing is a 2017 Film Independent Fellow and Garrett Scott Development Grant recipient and has a B.A. in Literature from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
LinksHere is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
Minding the Gap discussion guide – link
2/24/19 – Last night MINDING THE GAP director Bing Liu won the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards!
3/5/19 – “The film is impressive in many ways, but Liu’s balancing act of subjective and objective perspectives is astonishing… Part memoir, part social problem film, Minding The Gap is a treasure of a documentary.” Christopher Campbell, Thrillist – link
3/5/19 – “There isn’t a word of explicit politics in the film, but Liu’s confrontation with abuse and trauma as a way of confronting its unconscious legacy, of changing one’s own behavior and improving one’s own life and the lives of one’s own family and friends, is an essentially and crucially political act.” Richard Brody, The New Yorker – link
3/6/19 – “I tried to offer an opinion beyond ‘masterful’—and it really is—I couldn’t put words together. The film had destroyed me. Part of me felt guilty, since several of the characters in Minding the Gap experienced trauma much worse than my own. But Bing Liu had given me an unlikely gift. In the weeks that followed, I watched the film several more times. I shared the full extent of my humiliations and shame with my wife. And for the first time, I told my therapist, euphemistically, then openly, the tears welling in my eyes. The jealousy had faded. In its place, I found only gratitude.” David Michael, The Paris Review – link