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.