'Skate Kitchen': The Like-Real-Life Film About Real Life Skateboarders


Crystal Moselle, the director who brought The Wolfpack to Sundance in 2015, has created her first narrative film, Skate Kitchen.

The film centers around the predominantly female skate group, Skate Kitchen, and stars the actual members. While the characters they play have different names, their characters are based on the people who play them. The film successfully achieves a high level of authenticity and puts a great focus on the difficulty for women to make space for themselves in male-dominated scenes.

A week before the film hit theaters, House of Vans in Brooklyn hosted an early screening and Q&A. The entire Skate Kitchen crew was there, along with Crystal Moselle and Jaden Smith. Before the film started, there was a "Skate Jam" where the girls were able to skate with each other and a few friends. While some watched, other attendees of the screening flooded the lines for free food and booze.

There were two large screens set up at the House of Vans, one indoors and the other outside in the courtyard. It's safe to say that just about every seat was filled. Eventually the girls got off their boards, the crowd settled, the lights turned off, and the film began.

Skate Kitchen tells a fictional but much-like-real-life story of the group. Rachelle Vinberg, founding member of Skate Kitchen, plays Camille, an 18-year-old living with her strict mother (Elizabeth Rodriguez) in Long Island. Camille loves to skate, but after being injured at her local park, Camille's mom forbids her to skate. This furthers her frustration and leads Camille to set off to the Lower East Side to meet the Skate Kitchen, a girl skate group who she had been following on Instagram.

At first Camille is shy and naive when she starts hanging out with the girls from downtown, but eventually she makes her place among the Skate Kitchen, becoming close friends with the compassionate, but heartbroken Janay (Dede Lovelace) and the bold and feisty Kurt (Nina Moran). The crew do essentially everything together, from skating to raising havoc on the street, to talking about tampons while a joint is passed around the room. The film is just about as real as it can be and doesn't shy away from girl talk.

As Camille spends more time in Manhattan and less time in Long Island, her relationship with her mom gets rocky. Soon after, she befriends Devon (Jaden Smith), the mystery boy that she had seen at the skatepark. Devon skates with a group of guys that has become rivals of some sort with the girls of Skate Kitchen. But to Camille, he stands out with his camera, red hair, and quiet demeanor.

At the end of the screening, Crystal Moselle, the entire Skate Kitchen, and Jaden Smith joined on stage for a Q&A. The excited crowd praised the film for its cinematography and documentary-like narrative. For those that have been following the Skate Kitchen for some time, events like Camille getting "credit-carded" or Kurt pulling out her white rat was very familiar. Vinberg confirmed to the crowd that a lot of the things that happened in the movie actually happened.

We were just skating and doing things we liked but it was captured on camera.
— Nina Moran, Skate Kitchen

While Crystal Moselle's directorial aesthetic can definitely be seen in the film, she said that she wanted to be as authentic to their world as possible. "My goal was to capture New York through their eyes. I really got to see how they see architecture and the streets," she said. 

After the Q&A, the House of Vans' team cleared the space and Jaden Smith took the stage. He matched the crowd's enthusiasm and performed a number of tracks from his 2017 album SRYE. The Skate Kitchen joined him on stage as backup dancers and Vinberg and Lovelace successfully crowd surfed.

PHOTO: Grace Prewitt / BLENDED

PHOTO: Grace Prewitt / BLENDED

The entire event seemed to be the perfect crowd for the Skate Kitchen premiere. Moselle mentioned that while they've been showing the film around the world, it is here in this place, with these people, that it was meant to be shown. The crowd was full of young and diverse New Yorkers, full of expression and self-discovery.

Skate Kitchen hits theaters in the U.S. on August 10, and the girls of Skate Kitchen are still cruising the streets of Manhattan, wearing bananas and breaking ground in the skate scene. Get your tickets now at www.skatekitchenfilm.com/tickets.

Lead Image Credit: Skate Kitchen trailer