In Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown’s performance-driven doco, African-American communities across the US battle in a racially charged environment to save a vital roller-skate subculture.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2018
“Off the radar of mainstream American culture, the African-American roller-rink community has thrived for decades in cities across the country, fostering community, hosting performances by ground-breaking hip-hop artists including N.W.A. and Queen Latifah, and serving as the incubator for a radical blend of skating and dance that stands is its own unique art form, complete with regional variations. Despite this remarkable history, skating is in a precarious state; re-zoning policies have led to rinks closing down, and the long-standing, still-present practice of admission policies has restricted attendance to racially-coded ‘Adult Nights’ and even discouraged or barred black patrons entirely.
It’s to this present reality that directors Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown turn their cameras. United Skates visits black rink owners and observes skaters from Los Angeles, Chicago, North Carolina, and beyond as they travel across the US, introduce their kids to the art, muse on its past and future, and, most importantly, skate. This electrifying work is at once a cultural history lesson, an investigation into racial politics, and a beautifully shot performance film.” — Brian Gordon, Tribeca Film Festival
“Like other aspects of hip-hop culture, skating became a means of competitive personal expression, and as often happens when African-Americans adapt a mainstream (read: vanilla white-person) pursuit to their own ends, obstacles sprang up to remind them that the ruling class felt uncomfortable with their changes. Here, bolstered by daredevil, high-speed cinematography and a rousing soundtrack, United Skates shines a spotlight on the wild moves and blinged-out shoes that haven’t always been welcome on America’s floors…
Traveling practically the entire country, United Skates provides a dynamic survey of the diverse styles that have emerged in various cities – heightened by the fact that much of the footage is captured rolling right alongside the skaters, which puts audiences in the middle of the excitement.” — Peter Debruge, Variety