Switzerland’s Tristan Aymon, director of short film “Black Hole” (“Trou Noir”), the only title to win two prizes at the 2020 Locarno Festival – a Pardino d’Argento in Swiss Competition and a Youth Jury best Swiss short – is preparing “Skate,” his feature debut.
Written by Aymon and Marianne Brun, his co-screenwriter on “Black Hole,” “Skate” will tap into the same context, themes and, above all, emotions of “Black Hole,” a low key and laid-back but resonant, semi-autobiographical evocation of a close-knit gang of teen skateboard enthusiasts, whether skating, lazing by the local lake, driving around country roads in a Vitara convertible, or sharing a joint at a party.
The tone darkens when one of the gang, Vincent, the film’s protagonist, learns he is being sent abroad to study; he may be leaving the valley for ever.
Clocking in at a near half-hour, “Black Hole” feels as if it is portrayed from a nostalgic present some years later.
A loose sequel to “Black Hole,” “Skate” is set in what could be that present. It picks up Vincent’s story some 15 years later, opening in an American city where, now an anti-social 32 year-old, he is woken up by emails containing skateboarding videos he recorded in his native valley when only a teen.
Enthused, Vincent returns to the rural area of his childhood – to discover that his former close friends, who once straddled a large social divide, given skateboard’s counter-culture – have now grown apart, caught up by education and the inertia of family life. His videos still disturb him, however, with their sense of friendship and suggestions he had a real film talent.
An alum of the Lausanne Canton Art School, Aymon grew up in the Valais, a canton in South-West Switzerland whose steep-backed mountain valleys, dry river beds and scorching heat in sweltering summers are evoked memorably in “Black Hole.”
The feature looks set “to develop and deepen” themes of “Black Hole,” Aymon said.
One is the imagination needed to be able to skateboard in the Valais in the first place. “Black Hole” begins with an extended shot from the inside of a huge industrial pipe, the gang practicing their moves against its inside walls.
“The world of skateboarding is an urban discipline. In the Valais, the region where I grew up, skateboarding provokes frustration. It calls for imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness,” said Aymon.
In “Skate,” Aymon also wants to portray a group. Given skateboarding’s counter-culture, “socio-cultural markers are abolished in favor of new common codes. The characters of my project thus belong as much to the working class as to the upper middle class. The weight of family histories in the trajectories of each individual ultimately creates an explosive cocktail.”
“Skate” is set up at Terrain Vague, a Lausanne-based filmmakers collective founded in 2012 whose directors have included Andreas Fontana, winner at Locarno this year with debut feature “Azor” of a Youth Jury Award for best Swiss feature in The Films After Tomorrow, featuring titles whose production was halted by COVID-19.
Terrain Vague has produced all Aymon’s shorts to date: 2013’s “Off the Road,” co-directed with David Maye; 2016’s “The Lesson”; and 2020’s “Black Hole.” All have world premiered at Locarno’s Pardi di Domani.
“Black Hole” was inspired by Aymon’s own youth, which gives it perhaps its strongest lures: A sense of a singular, authentic world, recalled with heartfelt emotion.
Aymon commented: “For me, making films today is trying to rediscover the intoxicating sensations of my adolescence; passionately pursuing a project like a skateboard trick, finding the singularity of my style, the right point of view in the direction, searching for my limits, sharing. Continuing to believe that everything is possible.”