Title: VIRGIN BLACKTOP: A New York Skate Odyssey
Director: Charlie Samuels
Starring: Jamaal Bey, Joe, Humeres, Charlie Samuels
Runtime: 1 hr 20 mins
What It Is: Award-winning director and photojournalist Charlie Samuels scoured the ends of the earth and many attics for forgotten footage to bring us a feel-good, historical narrative about the Nyack, New York’s skating team. Charlie and his pals were some of first in their region to really reach for the stars when it came to skateboarding. This film follows their journey of creating the Wizards and the shenanigans that came along with competing across the country as young teens.
What We Think: In complete honesty, one may read the description of this film and think who cares? Like with Mid90s there is an attitude about skateboarding films only piquing the interest of and being for skateboarders. But director Charlie Samuels does something similar to Minding the Gap where yes, this film is about skateboarding but so much more of it is about brotherhood, support, and an outlet for young men conditioned to keep their plights to themselves. Getting into the narrative is instantaneous. The characters, their appreciation for one another, and their ability to build a community from such a young age speaks volumes to an era that just doesn’t exist anymore. And while the bonds between these boys (anywhere from twelve to eighteen) transcend race, age, socio-economic status and the like, this film still acknowledges that those things regularly impacted their day-to-day lives and even then they were able to find and hold onto their outlet. Skateboarding.
Little does the audience care about what goes into making a film. We just want the end product. Films are meant to entertain. But the 24 years it took for Samuels to piece together this documentary really shows, and even that aspect lent itself to the narrative. Films about skateboarding can come across as such a niche market, but this does it so right that “I don’t skateboard” is not an excuse to not watch this film.
Our Grade: A+, I’m a little biased because I love documentaries, but I especially love documentaries that are done well. It takes knowing a little bit of history about how the film was made to understand why it’s done so well from a technical stance. But like I said, “I don’t skateboard” isn’t an excuse because the story of the Wizards is worth learning and knowing as it should shift the way we think about and treat pre-teen and teenage boys who struggle to find outlets in a “deal with it” society.