The documentary is the most consistent genre of filmmaking. The sheer number of high-quality docs to release each year, revolving around a nearly endless amount of creators and subjects, is astounding. So great is the power of informative filmmaking that it becomes hard to rate them; they all merge into a group of well-made films. To be truthful, I only have one way to combat this, and that is, if the subject is something I have no interest in, yet the film manages to hold my attention, the film must be good. And that is exactly the case for Jeremy Elkin’s “All the Streets Are Silent”, a piece made to explore “The convergence of Hip-Hop and Skateboarding (1987 – 1997)”.
As mentioned, neither topic intrigues me. However, this angle of cultural convergence does. So, when the heartfelt narration of Eli Gesner began to play, I was prepared to be absorbed and absorbed I was. Elkin’s is not a flashy documentary, nor is it a pacy one. Rather, it’s raw and sentimental, driven by individuals who were there, on the streets of New York, witnessing this niche emerge and being a part of it. Eli personally oversaw much of it from the frontlines. He was a skater turned club promoter for “Mars”, sitting front row right at the precipice of the emerging hip-hop scene.
His perspective is pivotal to the success of the doc. He would skate all day and head to the club at night where DJs like Moby and Stretch Armstrong were making waves playing music yet to find wide popularity, particularly on the east coast. There are some small stories from here, and interesting though they may be, the film ultimately focuses on two figures and sparing only moments for those on the peripheral. The first is Gesner, and the second is now passed pro skater Harold Hunter.
Hunter was the legend in this scene. Known for his performance in Larry Clark’s “Kids” (a film born from Clark’s experience photographing skaters), he was a figure everyone with a board in NYC was drawn towards. Elkin presents him as electric, an individual who would always become the centre of attention due to pure skill and never-ending charisma. His death in 2006 makes him a tragic figure, and All the Streets are silent becomes the perfect homage to him and all he achieved during his highest point.
On the hip-hop side of things, we see the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Busta Rhymes make their rise. Yet a rift begins to form, and it became my only cause of concern while watching. At times All the Streets are Silent seems to investigate skateboarding and then cut to hip-hop with only a loose connection, something I found strange because it is generally common knowledge that the two went so well together, especially in the 90s.
Then all becomes clear, we see the birth of apparel giant “Supreme”, and then we cut to when everything clicks. In the late 90s, the skateboarding magazine “Zoo York” releases a tape playing host to clips of a series of tricks backed by the hip-hop those performing them dearly loved. And there is the convergence, and it is the moment the entire project works.
Overall, All the Streets are Silent sticks closely to its niche, and that will likely deter some. But for those with a love of skateboarding or hip-hop or anyone with a love of exploring how trends emerge, Elkin’s is a documentary well worth watching.
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