Directed by Crystal Moselle
Starring Rachelle Vinberg, Kabrina Adams, Nina Moran, Jules Lorenzo, Jaden Smith
Skate Kitchen is an actual skate collective based in New York consisting of mostly, but not exclusively, young women who fight to challenge the skater bro stereotype. Founding member Rachelle Vinberg coined their name after too many comments on YouTube videos of girls skating saying girls who grind should “get back in the kitchen”. So they formed their own badass kitchen, and reclaimed it.
Following a chance encounter with the girls of Skate Kitchen in New York, fledgling filmmaker Crystal Moselle was moved to produce and direct her debut narrative feature about this group of young women actively challenging norms, the patriarchy and battling through the perils of young adulthood in this beautiful exploration of the joy and heartache to be found in friendship, love and the most basic human need for acceptance.
Comparisons to 1995 cult classic Kids are inevitable, due to the New York backdrop, camera work, themes and the skating focus, but Skate Kitchen’s focus is firmly on the experience of women within that landscape, while following a similar thematic deconstruction of the usual teen issues of friendship, loyalty and betrayal, and the minefield of relationships with parents, while navigating sexual relationships and consent, and comprehending and breaking down gender and sexuality queries. While these are nothing new in cinema, it is rarely told from such a perspective, with such compassion and open mindedness.
The last time we saw Moselle’s work, she was showing her first feature at Sundance, with a magnificently produced documentary about seven isolated siblings confined to a Manhattan apartment and obsessed by cinema, in the rightfully lauded film The Wolfpack. Her ability to empathise with her subjects and draw such affinity forth from her audience cemented this young filmmaker in the consciousness. Her follow up feature continues to demonstrate some huge promise and a big future.
Moselle has perhaps bravely cast the real Skate Kitchen girls in their own lead roles, virtually playing themselves in their acting debuts. It’s a risk that has truly paid dividends, with some stellar performances which truly capture their individual idiosyncrasies and their unique personas are encapsulated perfectly. It demonstrates skilful directing beyond Moselle’s years.
Skate Kitchen founder Vinberg plays lead protagonist Camille, a young loner skateboarder who finds the Skate Kitchen crew via an Instagram meetup, following a promise to her mother not to skate anymore after a nasty fall. This inevitably proves to be a promise she can’t keep, as she falls in with these badass babes and finally discovers her tribe. Camille leaves her disapproving mother to stay with the generously loving and venerable Janay while taking up a job to make ends meet.
Here, she meets with Janay’s amore Devon, played by the only Hollywood star power in the film, Jaden Smith. Smith’s name is ultimately unnecessary to boost this generously directed, beautifully set film. The backdrop of New York lends itself to the dreamy quality of the film, with sweeping panoramas and slow, lingering shots of the visual spectacular on offer. It is a glorious ride through New York with the Skate Kitchen girls as your guides.
Fellow skating aficionados don’t expect any jaw dropping tricks but step back and take delight in a trip back to your early days. Parents, take your teens along to be part of the Skate Kitchen experience during Revelation Film Festival, then take the time to discuss the themes therein. Other cinephiles, get a kick out of being part of Crystal Moselle’s inevitable journey to greatness so you can say you were into her before she was big. It’s worth it.
Skate Kitchen screens as part of the awesome Revelation Perth International Film Festival. Playing on Saturday, July 7 2:45pm, Thursday, July 12 6pm, Wednesday, July 18 3:45pm, at the Luna Leederville.