Two New Skate Films Are Subverting Gender Norms

The girls of 'Skate Kitchen' and boys of 'Minding the Gap' both get to be brave and vulnerable, cocky and complex.

“Camille, go to the bathroom and check it,” sneers a red-teed adolescent.

“It’s not my period,” says the teenaged skateboarder whose stunt leaves blood streaking down her thigh.

The opening exchange of Skate Kitchen, out last Friday as the second feature from Crystal Moselle (of Sundance hit The Wolfpack, a documentary also set in New York’s Lower East Side), captures a paradox at the heart of understanding the film: boys become “men” by making something happen—scoring a goal, getting laid, or committing some act of supposed valor (which often happens to be violent). Girls become “women” by waiting for something to happen to their bodies, something over which they (always) have absolutely zero control.

In Skate Kitchen that doesn’t happen. The blood isn’t a surprise visit from mercurial Mother Nature, but from a battle wound that its protagonist Camille (Rachelle Vinberg) knowingly risks—making her braver than any boy for attempting the feat in the first place. When her overprotective Long Island mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez, in a 180 from her OITNB role) makes her promise to quit skating, Camille treks down the LIRR to join the “Skate Kitchen,” a pack of teenage girls in the LES based on the collective that Vinberg co-founded in real life. The clear connection between the women onscreen—rife with loaded glances and flip non-sequiturs—lends a docu-fictional feel that the film unravels slowly and a bit haphazardly, like teenage life itself.

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