Sundance 2018: 'Skate Kitchen' is a Vibrant Look at NYC Skater Girls
by Alex Billington
January 30, 2018
Ride on, ladies. One of the biggest surprises from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival is this vibrant drama Skate Kitchen, a feature film about a group of badass female skateboarders from the New York City area. Made by filmmaker Crystal Moselle (who already won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2015 for her documentary The Wolfpack) the film follows these carefree, wild teenage girls as they deal with all the pain-in-the-ass troubles the world throws at you at that time in your life - mainly: parties, injuries, boys, security guards, parents, and other skaters. I am not a fan of The Wolfpack, so I went into this a bit concerned, but was relieved to discover it's an enjoyable, energetic portrait of NYC kids skating around the city to survive.
Moselle's Skate Kitchen features a group of real kids from the New York City area. She met them randomly on the subway one day, and decided to make a film about them - none of them are actors, they're just young skaters. The story follows one girl in particular - Camille, played by Rachelle Vinberg, who lives with her overbearing, demanding mother on Long Island. One day during the summer, Camille meets and soon falls in with a rad crew of female skateboarders - as played by Kabrina Adams, Ajani Russell, Nina Moran, Ardelia Lovelace, and Jules Lorenzo. Not much major happens, we just follow them around for a while, riding around the streets and navigating life, dangerous obstacles, vehicles, and rival skaters. The only other key part of the plot involves a friendship between Camille and another skater boy, played by Jaden Smith.
I don't know how exactly Moselle found her, but Rachelle Vinberg as Camille is a revelation. She embodies this character perfectly, a natural performance that must involve some honest aspects of her own real life. She's an experienced rider, no doubt, but most of all delivers a vulnerable, yet captivating performance that carries the entire film and gives it an emotional weight. The other girls in the crew are dope, but Moselle had an instant connection to this one in particular and focuses the story on her, which was the right choice. The film is kind of a coming-of-age story, but not really, because it's mainly just a story about the girls and how they live their lives - not about them growing up (maybe for the sequel?). By the end there's not a lot that has changed, but this is still an exuberant, empowering portrait of the free-spirited minds of today's youth.
Skate Kitchen is bolstered by a fantastic soundtrack of lively songs that add an even more exuberant vibe to the film. The cinematography is a bit rough, with handheld footage capturing most of their rides around the city, and some of the shots are a bit sloppy (I much prefer the skating cinematography in Minding the Gap over this). The film beautifully captures a generation and some its most unique representatives with such a vivacious and reliable lens, teaching us that these young women have just as much passion to offer the world as anyone else. This film impressed me so much, and made me feel like Crystal Moselle can really craft an outstanding film with a fresh perspective. You'll definitely want to hang out these rad girls after seeing this.
Alex's Sundance 2018 Rating: 8 out of 10
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