Friday, 13 January 2017

Backstreet Atlas - Push | Documentary Film Review

Backstreet Atlas - Push is a short documentary that can be found on YouTube and was uploaded in 2013, it documents the travels of two adult skateboarders as they travel from Boston to New York using only their boards and a very little money. The documentary sees them travel through countless towns with the sole intention of meeting good people, exploring new areas and having a good time skateboarding. As they travel to different areas, word begins to get out amongst the different towns and soon enough kind hearted people start to offer them supplies and a place to stay as they venture into different sections of their journey.

Fig 1: Screenshot, Push - Backstreet Atlas

Backstreet Atlas is an extremely light hearted documentary that seems to focus on highlighting the good hearted citizens of the areas they visit, as they purposely seek out different kinds of people from different towns and ask their opinion on their task at hand and general questions concerning way of life. Backstreet Atlas delivers an extremely eye opening look into the general kindness of people, the difference between areas of America and the importance of generally having a passion, in this case, skateboarding.

Fig 2: Photograph, Backstreet Atlas - Push

Backstreet Atlas is a strong mix of two different types of documentary, on one half it is without a doubt an observational documentary as it exhibits real traits of this documentary mode. As the pair of filmmakers travel through the different towns they are certainly providing a window for the viewer to observe areas of the world and how they function which they otherwise may never have seen, something that an observational documentary holds as one of its core values. They are also clearly concerned with different types of citizens and historical sites, as they litter the film with little snippets of interviews of the various residents of the towns they visit, focusing on not only their thoughts of the skateboarding trip but also highlighting different events that have occurred in their respective towns and what they think of them, again showcasing traits of an observational documentary.

The short documentary also shares traits with another mode of the genre, the participatory mode, an area of documentary that focusses on the interviewer through physically and vocally participating in the subject of their film. In the case of Backstreet Atlas, the film really has two main subjects, skateboarding and people, both of which the makers actively participate in, skateboarding as they physically and literally travel from Boston to New York on their boards whilst commenting on what the sport means to them and how passionate they are about the subject of the film. They also have an active participation in the different people they meet along the way, as they seek out residents to interview and ask their opinions on the sport and also the events taken place in that town, often asking more questions to get the subject to open up and be more honest. It is also worth mentioning that at times the pair of filmmakers take part in small events or activities such as wine tasting or visiting new areas, another form of participation, as the pair are almost participating in the locations they pass through.

Fig 3: Photograph, Backstreet Atlas - Push

Backstreet Atlas - Push is not only an extremely feel good film, but it also provides a huge viewing platform into the world of skateboarding as well as the different areas of the places they visit and the lives of the people who live in those towns and cities. Backstreet Atlas is a strong mix between an observational and a participatory documentary, both highlighting different sections of America whilst taking part in the subject of their film and the lives of the people they meet.  

Illustration List

Fig 1: Screenshot, Backstreet Atlas - Push,, Accessed on: 13.01.17

Fig 2: Photograph, Backstreet Atlas - Push,, Accessed on: 13.01.17

Fig 3: Photograph, Backstreet Atlas - Push,, Accessed on: 13.01.17

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