When filmmaker and photojournalist Charlie Samuel was growing up in New York he was part of a crew of young skaters who called themselves “The Wizards”. After 40 years he has finally put his reels and reels of 8mm film footage together, showing the world the story behind the creation of the group that was such a significant part of their formative years. ‘Virgin Blacktop’ is a unique and touching study of growing up, and the different, sometimes unexpected twists and turns that occur through life.
When these kids met in New York in the 70s, they were all from diverse backgrounds and of different ages. No one would have thought that they were destined for friendship. It was, however, their shared passion for skateboarding that created an incredibly close bond between these youngsters. Each member of the Wizards fondly looks back on the huge part that the sport played in their lives, and the rituals and traditions that surrounded their skating.
We look at a handful of members of the Wizards, as they discuss what happened in their lives in the intervening years. Some ran into trouble with the law, some left New York, some succumbed to illness… but what remains in tact is a bond that seems exclusive to childhood friends. This film is a heart warming, sometimes heart breaking, look at growing up, and the passing of time. It’s nostalgic and beautiful, especially since 8mm film is very rarely seen today on our screens. The reunions between the Wizards are the most touching scenes of all, as each of them have had their struggles, their own lives, their own careers, but share a deep love for one another that never seems to falter.
For a skateboarding fan, this film will be an educational look at a low-key side of skating in 1970s New York. The people aren’t necessarily big names in the sport, but that is what makes the film so charming. It is simply passion that drives these kids to skate. For someone with no knowledge of the sport, it is still undeniably enchanting to watch the evolving friendships between these men as they age. It’s a picturesque film that is sometimes painful and sad, sometimes humorous, but always incredibly authentic.
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