Oscar-nominated “Minding the Gap” shines light on how young men face vulnerability

Director Bing Liu's Academy Award-nominated documentary “Minding the Gap” is a film about three skater kids and their day-to-day lives growing up in, and eventually out of, the rustbelt city of Rockford, Illinois.

Liu joined Salon’s D. Watkins on “Salon Talks” to explain how the film dives deep into the rarely explored issues young men face around masculinity, friendship and trauma.

The film follows three boys from childhood through adulthood, including Liu’s own story. Through this journey, which includes footage from over 12 years, all three subjects reckon with life’s obstacles and their shortcomings.

The film spotlights each young man’s unique story. “Everyone has their own truth, right?” Liu said. “The film doesn't leave you with some final universal tied together thought to leave you with, to go off and learn your lesson. I think the film presents just different truths.”

Liu explained the moment when he interviewed one of his friends about how he was disciplined while growing up. “He goes, ‘Well, nowadays, they'd call it child abuse, but it's not really." He sort of trails off, like he has this shame around talking about it but that was a two-hour conversation. He laid out everything that he felt about his father in that conversation. What was important for me is that he was willing to open up about it and admit that he still feels a lot of pain and unresolved feelings from his childhood.”

The film garnered critical acclaim with a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as praise from Barack Obama, who put “Minding the Gap” on his list of favorite movies for 2018.

It’s clear that Liu doesn’t want some overarching lesson to be learned from the film. “I don't think there's one, grand lesson to be taken away from this. There's a lot of them.”

Watch the full episode above to learn more about why Liu thinks skating is a unique, democratic space that allowed the film to happen. And hear Watkins open up about how watching “Minding the Gap” forced him to confront how his own childhood was built on toxic masculinity.

About “Salon Talks”

Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on Salon.com.

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