The other day, I saw this beautiful visual story on the New York Times website that really blew me away.
First off- the piece is nearly 17 minutes long and I watched every second of it. I usually get fidgety after 2-3 minutes of a piece, but this one held my attention. I even showed it to my Introduction to Multimedia class, which is filled with bored freshman and sophomores who can't wait to get out of lab, and THEY were blown away. And even had questions and comments after the screening!
The story is about Slomo, a North Carolina native named John Kitchin. Kitchin is former neurologist turned beach bum who spends his days gliding down the Pacific Beach boardwalk in San Diego on a pair of high-end rollerblades. It has received a lot of attention, winning more than a dozen film festival accolades, including best short documentary at SXSW.
In an interview he gave to The Moveable Fest, Izenberg said Kitchin was a former med school classmate of his father. His dad happened to be in San Diego when he bumped into Slomo and was amazed by his former classmate's transition, whom he always knew as a respected neurologist. Izenberg, who was looking for a subject for his first documentary, was intrigued by his dad's story and reached out to Slomo.
The piece is beautifully shot. It includes these seemingly effortless shots of Slomo skating down the boardwalk as well as animated and reenacted sequences flawlessly to tell a complete story. It makes you dream of a simpler life underneath blue skies and palm trees. But what I really loved about the story is that Josh Izenberg took the time to get to know this man, who for so many is just a two-dimensional character in the background of their daily lives.
So often in our society, senior citizens are ignored or taken only at face value as aging human beings that have little to no value in our fast-paced, plugged-in, youth-obsessed culture. Kitchin has a lot of profound thoughts on life, and his take away of "Do what you want to" is one that will resonate with both young and old.
I think this piece is a perfect example of how much you can see if you only take the time to stop, look and listen. In the film, Izenberg includes quick snippets of interviews of Pacific Beach locals who have seen Slomo on a daily basis. One of them says something along the lines of, "I don't know. He might have been a musician? He might have been an actor?" Another comments, "I think he might have been a veteran?" It's clear that although they find Slomo endearing and a part of the fabric of Pacific Beach, none of them have taken the time to get to know the man behind the roller skates. I for one am glad that Izenberg did.
Check out Josh's Bay Area production company, Big Young Films.