advertisement


With the separation of families on the US-Mexico border, holding children in cells, and the United States Supreme Court upholding President Trump’s travel ban yesterday, it’s become abundantly clear that the government is hell bent on becoming more isolated from the rest of the world. This comes at a time when skateboarders continue to break down walls, language barriers, and cultural differences across the globe. Everyday, it seems I am learning about a new organization that is opening doors and making skateboarding one of the most inclusive communities in existence. Personally, I find it perfectly appropriate for a group that was once stereotyped as being lazy and degenerate outcasts to be leading the charge building commonality among people who couldn’t be more diverse. Enter Build Ramps Not Walls:

Build Ramps Not Walls (BRNW) documents a project that began with a tight knit Mexican and American skate community on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. The two main characters, a young American-Mexican skater, Nat and an older Mexican skater, Emilio, are looking for a positive response to the negative rhetoric between Mexico and the United States of America after the U.S.A. 2016 Presidential Elections. With the help of their diverse skate crew, they decided to come together and build a new ramp with the same construction materials that would be used to build the alleged wall between Mexico and the U.S.A. 

This past Go Skateboarding Day, I was privy to view a screening of Brian Adamkiewicz’s award-winning film in Havana, Cuba; A place where skateboarding is seen as an American institution, and as such is frowned upon. But in a country without a single skate shop, a thriving skate scene is developing. I’m thrilled to be a part of a community that refuses to submit to rules we don’t agree with. I caught up with Brian to talk about BRNW and his thoughts on what’s happening in the world today.

It’s better together | Photo: @build_ramps_not_walls

First off, congrats on the film’s success, you’re doing pretty well on the festival circuit can you tell us more about that?
Thanks man! Our team is grateful for the feedback we are getting. We applied to dozens of festivals around the world and got into 8 as of right now. We won the American Pavilion Emerging filmmaker Showcase at the Cannes film Festival in France. For someone who loves film as much as I do , it felt like I was in the holy Mecca. I met amazing people in the industry and got great advice from many people I look up to. I also met some skaters and they showed me this skatepark that Tony Hawk helped build.

Welcoming newcomers to our shores has been part of American values since the beginning…I’m not sure if that’s true with our government anymore.

 

With a little concrete any wall can be made skateable.

Can you share your personal reaction to the supreme courts decision to uphold the travel ban, and how America is handling its borders in general currently?
Welcoming newcomers to our shores has been part of American values since the beginning…I’m not sure if that’s true with our government anymore. The Trump administration claims it’s taking extraordinary measures to secure the border, but their needs to be a better way. We can do better.

Your film highlights a wonderful community of people in Mexico, being based in NYC, how did you first come to get involved?
The lead role of the film is played by a young boy Nat. His mom, Rebecca Scotti is the producer of the film. They live in Mexico full time and come to NY for the Summer in Long Beach. I taught Nat how to skate a few years ago, and he hasn’t stopped since. After forming a great bond with their family, she recruited me to direct the documentary.

Do you have any plans to grow that community internationally?
The project has grown into a three pronged mission:
1.) To build skate ramps in disenfranchised communities
2.) To help skaters reach their full potential and help new skaters come to the sport by offering trainings, contests, workshops and classes in the new ramps.
3.) To create mentorship relationships between local skaters and national pro skaters involved in the builds to keep kids on a successful life path, which includes skating to your full potential, staying in school, mapping out a career path and becoming a productive and supportive member of your community.

Finished Build in Cuidad Libertad, Cuba | Photo: @build_ramps_not_walls

The film beautifully highlights the problem and how a community can come together to overcome it. For people wondering what they can do in their own daily lives to make a difference what advice would you give them?
If you think something in your community is problematic, do something about it! Surround yourself with like minded people who eat sleep breathe positivity for a living.

Did Border Patrol give you guys any issues while you were there working?
Not at all, our Cinematographer Ernesto Rosas filmed people actually skating the ledge on the border wall in Tijuana. (You will see it in the film)

In your opinion, why do you think people have such an easy time dividing and separating instead of coming together?
It’s easier to point your finger at someone else, instead of taking responsibility for something. People need to realize we are stronger united.

Finished build in Mexico | Photo: @build_ramps_not_walls

What is it about the skateboarding community that attracts people who just want to share good times?
Skateboarding for me is the way to free my mind. I feel most skateboarders don’t fit in with society and we can all bond over that. We can feed off of each others energy with just a piece of wood on the concrete.

It’s easier to point your finger at someone else, instead of taking responsibility for something. People need to realize we are stronger united.

With the times we live in, it seems like it may get worse before it gets better so your talents are needed more than ever. What’s next on the horizon for you?
I am very honored to hear that from you, my man! The next move is to continue my love for filmmaking with my skateboard on me at all times.

Where can people go to see your film? And If they want to get involved with BRNW how can they?
We are working on getting a premiere at the House of Vans in Brooklyn before they close. Praying they let us have it! We have the worldwide festival circuit to finish, but follow @build_ramps_not_walls & @a2zfilms for more info. If you want to get involved with Build Ramps Not Walls please reach out at [email protected].