Minding the Gap

Bing Liu's 12-year-spanning Minding the Gap is both a great skating doc and a moving portrait of how toxic masculinity can manifest in destructive ways

Film Review by Iana Murray | 11 Mar 2019
  • Minding the Gap
Film title: Minding the Gap
Director: Bing Liu
Starring: Bing Liu, Zack Mulligan, Kiere Johnson
Release date: 22 Mar
Certificate: 15

Minding the Gap is ostensibly a skateboarding documentary. Director Bing Liu (also the cinematographer and co-editor) captures the way his friends, Zack and Kiere, glide across the tarmac with an almost ethereal quality. The camera feels like it’s floating on air as it traverses the abandoned streets of their hometown of Rockford, Illinois, as if you’re skating alongside them.

When the boys fall off their boards, they get back up again. But that journey from adolescence to adulthood isn’t as simple. News clips inform us that their town is suffering from widespread unemployment and low wages, and as a result, more people have moved out of Rockford than anywhere else in the state. Bing, Zack and Kiere became friends through their love of skateboarding, but their bond grows much deeper, inextricably tied by their shared childhood trauma dominated by domestic abuse. “How did you get disciplined?” Bing asks Kiere. “Well, they call it child abuse now,” Kiere answers, with his reluctance characteristic of anyone confronting their personal demons.

Liu’s emotional and powerful cine-memoir depicts a devastating portrait of how toxic masculinity can manifest in destructive ways. Growing up, the three boys were told to hold their emotions inside and never shed a tear. Switching seamlessly between amateur home footage, talking head interviews and fly-on-the-wall observation, the film subtly reveals how the repercussions of such damaging teachings emerge as they become adults, and even fathers themselves. Abuse isn’t confined to a single person, but is an endless cycle that is doomed to repeat itself and pass down through generations. What it means to be a man is a definition that is always in flux, and Minding the Gap demonstrates how the men of today are trying to alter that definition for the men of the future. 

Released 22 Mar by Dogwoof