For all the conversation lately about portraits of masculinity in the Midwest (or lack thereof), one of the most quietly stirring comes from Bing Liu’s Oscar-nominated documentary, Minding the Gap. Centering around a love of skateboarding, the documentary initially follows three skaters living in Rockford, Illinois — Keire Johnson, Zack Mulligan, and the filmmaker himself — before revealing what these lost boys had in common: a life marked by domestic violence. Slowly, the narrative digs into deeper grooves, and we see Zack become abusive to his girlfriend Nina, and Liu discussing his own childhood abuse at the hands of his stepfather in a raw discussion with his mother. Liu filmed most of the footage over a five-year span between 2012 and 2017, but he also draws from a well of archival footage that captures the inexorable loss of childhood. In a conversation over coffee in New York, we discussed the curious intimacy of interviews, how the violence he experienced was racialized, and his Oscar nomination.
How does it feel to be interviewed, as opposed to being the interviewer?
It’s been an opportunity to reflect, and it’s almost part of the journey, because I get to understand and explore the meaning of the film and dissect it as if I were just a critic deconstructing the film.