She was a Skater Girl: Crystal Moselle's Skate Kitchen
Crystal Moselle manages to make life-changing walks through her native New York. A few years ago, the director was minding her own business on the Lower East Side when the family of boys who’d become known as The Wolfpack ran past her. That was her first documentary, released in 2015. More recently, a trip on the subway led to her bumping into a group of girl skate boarders, which Moselle explains “I had never seen before
“So I was in the subway and I saw Rachelle and Nina (two of the teenage girls who would later form the main cast) – and I was like, ’what’s up you guys.’ I asked if there were more of them because I just didn’t even realise young female skateboarders existed, and they said there were. I asked them to go to coffee with me, which they got really excited about as no one had ever asked them for coffee, and then a while later Miu Miu asked me to do a short film and I featured the girls. Then Kim Yutani, the new programmer from Sundance said, ‘you have to make a feature film out of the short.’ She really gave me the confidence that I could make my first narrative.”
Skate Kitchen is the result, which premiered at Sundance 2018 and has its Sundance London premiere this weekend, with Moselle and the cast. It stars the girls, as well as Jaden Smith (you’ll probably be aware of his background) and the story, co-written by Aslihan Unaldi and Jennifer Silverman, one of a naïve teenager, Camille ( played by Rachelle Vinberg) who secretly sneaks out of her home to skate with a streetwise Downtown all-female crew. Groundbreaking, the plot isn’t, but the film should inspire a legion of young girls to get on their boards, assisted by some truly beautiful photography of the girls on the boards in Manhattan.
“it’s a metaphor for life. If you feel you can’t skateboard because you are a girl, that’s not true, if you feel you can’t direct a film because you are a girl that’s not true.” Crystal Moselle on Skate Kitchen
Were the girls confident of making a full length film – given they’d never acted? “Hell yeah,” says Moselle enthusiastically. “They wanted to make it.”
It would have been easy to make The Wolfpack 2.0 as a documentary, but Crystal Moselle has always seen herself working in narrative films. “I just wasn’t sure how to, but Sundance encouraged me. I did think about doing another documentary, but I love collaborating and there’s a lot more collaboration on a feature.”
“It used to be just them and now they do a skate jam and a hundred girls show up. I see them inspiring so many women.” Crystal Moselle on the Skate Kitchen crew.
Skate Kitchen is fantastic for a couple of reasons: firstly, Moselle brings to life that ‘sweet spot’ with girls when they feel they can do anything – before life tells them differently. The director identifies that period as “between 17 and 19 when you’re coming into your own and when you’re realising you’re growing up. You see the world in a different way, you notice things in a womanly way, maybe you realise a boy looks at you differently – I find this all magic, because there’s also an innocence shining through.”
And secondly, it reinforces a message that you can do exactly what you want, as Moselle says, “it’s a metaphor for life. If you feel you can’t skateboard because you are a girl, that’s not true, if you feel you can’t direct a film because you are a girl that’s not true.”
Meanwhile Rachelle and Nina and her crew “have started a revolution,” their director reports. “It used to be just them and now they do a skate jam and a hundred girls show up. I see them inspiring so many women.”
As for Crystal Moselle, who knows what her next trip through New York will bring? She has a knack for bringing subjects her way just by virtue of her personality and the questions she’s willing to ask. “I like hanging out with groups,” she says. “And I think I am inspired by young people who are passionate about things.”
Skate Kitchen is showing at Sundance London