MID90s telling new story

Alexandra Moore

Skateboarding through nuanced lens in film

Skateboarders above all else, the cast members of “Mid90s” were able to call upon their passion in order to portray the power of skateboarding in a way that has never been done before on film.

Jonah Hill’s screenwriting and directorial debut film, “Mid90s,” is a period piece which follows 13-year-old Stevie as he navigates an unstable home life and finds escape within the unexpected world of skateboarding.

Hill’s film deviates from the monolithic history of skateboarding movies in which an underdog kid learns to skate, wins a national competition, and becomes a superstar within the matter of eighty minutes.

Instead, Hill — a skateboarder himself — provides his audience with an intimate view into the honest and significant story of street-life in the 1990s.

He shines a light on the unacknowledged community-building powers of skateboarding.

“This is about life shown through skateboarding,” Olan Prenatt, who plays one of the skaters Stevie gets to know, said in an interview with The Falcon.

The other cast members agreed that, while the film includes and revolves around skateboarding, it is ultimately not about the sport itself.

Rather, the film employs skateboarding as a lens, looking at a group of young people who encounter both the beauty and suffering of their world and attempt to reconcile the two by sharing stories and having fun.

In the seach for authenticity, Hill recruited skateboarders to act in his film. Excited by the film’s vision, the cast learned how to translate and apply their skateboarding skills to acting , the majority making their own on-screen debuts in this film.

“A skater’s mentality helps with anything, like with acting … [because] you learn how to fail before you succeed,” said Sunny Suljic, who played the main character, Stevie, in the film.

mid90s1
Photo Courtesy of A24

Suljic also detailed how much he and his castmates enjoyed making this film, as well as how impressed they were by Hill’s ability to not only do justice to skateboarding, but also to capture the eye-opening impact that skateboarding has on young people.

“Skating definitely opens up a lot of things because you’re going around place to place and you see what’s really going on outside of what people tell you,” said Gio Galicia, who played the character Ruben in the film.

This was a major theme in the film as Stevie befriended other skateboarders who came from all different backgrounds, many of which included poverty, abuse, addiction or a mix of all those things.

Suljic, emphasized how skating affects young people specifically. Comparing the exposure of skateboarding to finding out that Santa is not real, Sujlic’s youth juxtaposed his lack of naivety.

In the film, when Stevie’s mother confronts his new friends, she immediately assumes them to be poor influences. Stevie was unaffected by his mother’s opinion. He had already built meaningful relationships with, and began to understand the stories of the skateboarding community, which gave him the sense of belonging he lacked at home and was desperate to find.

This is something that each of the cast members spoke to during the interview. Each explained the truth behind the power skateboarding. “You see the culture before you have a view on it, and that is a beautiful thing that skateboarding does to human beings which [makes] skateboarders so powerful and non-judgemental, and skateboarding such a powerful thing,” Prenatt concluded.

At a special pre-premier showing of the film advertised to Seattle skateboarders, these words rang true as individuals from different areas and experiences appeared to know one another simply through skateboarding in the same city. With boards in hand, the community attended in hopes of seeing an accurate portrayal of the sport which brought them all together.

According to the cast, the film delivered.

“In the community, you have to be skating for such a long time to understand the energy [of skateboarding], and Jonah portrayed it very well in the movie,” said Suljic as his cast mates nodded their heads in concurrence.

MID90s will premier nationwide Oct. 26.