Minding the Gap starts down one path while the cinema verite documentary heads toward an entirely different goal altogether.
Set in Rockford, Ill., filmmaker Bing Liu’s first feature documentary seeks to examine the past. Liu follows a few young men from his hometown, Zack and Keire, in hopes of seeking answers from his own past. The filmmaker had grown up in the same town but escaped to Chicago in search of a better life. This came after an adolescence-filled life of running away from home to go skateboarding. Liu was one of the lucky ones in finding a better life. Other people from Rockford weren’t so lucky.
Zack and Keire are in different stages of their life. The former is becoming a new father while the latter seeks out his first job. Liu soon finds himself involved in their stories especially when he learns that Zack had been abusing his girlfriend. This leads Liu to interview his mother and half-brother about his abusive step-father. His abusive step-father is why he ran away from home in the first place. The fact that Bing Liu was far happier on the streets than at home is really telling. Yet he can’t help but interject in Zack’s story because of his own past. To even discuss the relationship between fathers and sons, we must–unfortunately–examine the role that domestic abuse plays in all this.
It’s fascinating to note that Liu conceived the film to be a skate video. Like many other documentaries have done, this would evolve over the years as the filmmaker escaped to Chicago. Yet while he was finding success, others were–as they say–flirting with disaster. Making repeated trips back to Rockford over several years, the film starts to find a focus on the relationships between fathers and sons not to mention domestic abuse. The whole angle of abuse takes the film down a path we didn’t expect. It’s unfortunate that it happened but the film is stronger for it.
Because Minding the Gap was shot over the course of 12 years, it gives the film a Boyhood aspect but the comparisons can only go so far. The film also announces Liu’s presence as a documentary filmmaker. Make no mistake, Bing Liu will be a filmmaker to keep our eyes on over the next several years to come.
Minding the Gap not only announces the presence of a new filmmaker but delivers a strong coming-of-age documentary in the process.
DIRECTOR: Bing Liu
FEATURING: Keire Johnson, Zack Mulligan, Nina Bowgren, Kent Abernathy, Mengyue Bolen, Bing Liu