Review: ‘Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul’

An inspirational story located at the intersection of sports and universal brotherhood is undermined by a reality-TV aesthetic.

An inspirational story located at the intersection of sports and universal brotherhood is undermined by a reality-TV aesthetic in “Skateistan: Fours Wheels and a Board in Kabul,” about the efforts of a couple of Australian aid workers to establish a coed skateboard school in Afghanistan. Set in a country where 50% of the population is under 15 and anything vaguely “Western” is a moving target, “Skateistan” should attract wide attention for its topicality and will likely roll into a sports-oriented cable slot. But as a film, it feels like a missed opportunity.

Violence and poverty are constants in the city where Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan introduce street kids to skateboarding; these include the charismatic/problematic Mirwais Ahmad, who provides plenty of drama. Percovich starts out using an empty fountain as a venue but envisions something larger, and recruits international skateboard pros Cairo Foster, Kenny Reed and Louisa Menke to help realize his four-wheeled dream. Story is fine and tech credits are tops, but the rhythm set up by helmer Kai Sehr, with its constant cutting between skating scenes and talking heads who often have nothing useful to say, becomes oppressive.

Skateistan: Four Wheels and a Board in Kabul

Afghanistan

Production

A DeFilm and Features While-U-Wait presentation of a Rene Kock/Nadia Soraya Hennrich production. Produced by Kock. Executive producer, Ken Meyer. Co-producer, Oliver Percovich. Directed by Kai Sehr. Written by Nadia Soraya Hennrich.

Crew

Camera (color), Ralf K. Dobrick; editor, Hennrich; music, Rex Faraday. Reviewed at Los Angeles Film Festival (Summer Showcase), June 20, 2011. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Mirwais Ahmad, Kenny Reed, Cairo Foster, Louisa Menke. (English, Dari, German dialogue)

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