A new documentary called “Build Ramps Not Walls” is challenging, in a very positive way, the withstanding vow of building a wall between the US and Mexico! Read the interview with Brian Adamkiewicz, the amazing Director behind it!
Build Ramps Not Walls is the title of a fantastic documentary we’ve recently learned about that was filmed in the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Due to premier in early 2018, the documentary portrays the connection between the Mexican and American skate community.
Using the same construction materials what would be used to build the wall between Mexico and the U.S., this group of extremely passionate skateboarders challenges the “vow” to build this wall that arose after the U.S.A. 2016 Presidential Elections.
So, a group of friends decided to give it a positive response by showing how building ramps with the help of people from different cultures, can bring communities together and have a long-term impact.
As they explain:
“In the process of this construction, we saw skaters from all walks of life come together, overcoming barriers of race, age, gender and economics, to achieve a common goal– the goal to create the most unique DIY park in all of Mexico where Mexicans, Americans, all nationalities can come together and skate.
With each day of construction, we saw that by building a ramp together, the community was not just pouring concrete. We were also promoting an ethic of hard work, encouraging youth leadership, sharing positive role models for local kids, and communicating across culture and language barriers with tolerance and the shared passion of skating.
By building this hard core DIY (Do It Yourself) ramp together, our community has opened opportunities for skaters in the region to improve their skills without having to move to the big city or cross the border. We have put our skate community on the map for potential sponsors. Most importantly, we have offered an alternative solution to how to respond to the divisive rhetoric coming down from politicians these days. We say Build Ramps that unite, Not Walls that divide.”
We talked to Brian Adamkiewicz, the Director of the movie, and learned more about what it’s all about.
1) We know that many people have a negative perspective of the skateboarding community. Why? What are the Truths and Myths behind it?
People have a negative perspective of skateboarding for 1 of 3 reasons:
- The attitude of skateboarding from the beginning in the 1960’s was to rebel against society. And everyone thinks every skateboarder has this attitude.
- Young kids my sometimes harass, run away from, and sometimes assault security guards/cops. Giving skateboarders a punk image.
- The wood and metal within your skateboard unfortunately does destroy property.
Truth is not every skateboarder is going to curse you out if you ask him/her to leave. Skateboarders are humans too, and 9/10 times if you show respect you will get it back.
Skateboarding is an outcast sport. I believe in some way every skateboarder started because they felt like they didn’t fit in where they were.
To me, Skateboarding is not a sport, it doesn’t discriminate against your physique, it is a platform that people can express themselves with.
2) How would you describe the lifestyle and essence behind the true skaters out there, in relation to other sport modalities
It is good to have endurance, stamina, and be in shape like most sports, but with skateboarding there are no rules of regulation. You are allowed to use your creativity and skate any way you want even with a beer belly.
3) How did the idea of this project start? Was there something specific, besides the original controversy of the wall between Mexico and the US, that triggered this project to come to life?
The project started with Rebecca Scotti, the Executive Producer of the movie, that currently lives in Mexico. I’ve known her and her kid, Nathanial, for a several years.
This 6-year-old kid, turned out to be my little skateboard prodigy. He was curious if he was allowed to come back to New York after learning Trump had become president.
An innocent young skater boy, born in Mexico, was all of a sudden asking his mom if he can cross the border.
With such a difficult subject to explain to young boy, we decided to show him what we can build with the same materials, but unite people instead.
So, Rebecca had the idea, but needed help to unfold it and bring it to life. She contacted and invited me to direct and be part of the team So, during my road-trip across the US, I flew to Mexico for 10 days. In another couple of days, I was signing a contract to direct the movie for her.
I went back to New York, sorted some things out, and flew back to shoot for 3 full months.
4) How was the experience of being there and seeing this project unfold? How would you explain the opportunity of witnessing the development, growing relationship and bonding of this community?
The experience for me was life changing. I saw a community become one right before my eyes all because of the love of skateboarding.
At first, it was a bit challenging communicating with everybody, but towards the end my friends understood my “Spanglish” and I was becoming one step closer to being a fluent Spanish speaker.
After the three months in Mexico, I felt like I really got to know everyone and became part of their family/community.
5) What were the main skills that kids and others involved in building the ramp were able to improve or develop?
The main skills that the kids developed in this process was knowing what it takes to build something. So, when it is done, you can truly admire your work and respect it like it is yours.
Plus, they also learned about team work, being dedicated and committed to a project and a bigger cause. And still, they dealt with unexpected problems that arouse throughout the project. It was definitely life changing.
6) Does the project have a long-term mission of expanding to other locations?
Personally, I’d love to keep working with everyone to continue building ramps for kids and creating opportunities for communities to build and unite.
We have ideas of building in Ukraine, New Mexico, or Texas for our next project. In addition, we’d like to collaborate with other skateboarding movements, like the Gnarmads.
Our goals are to unite places that are divided and also build in States in the US that are close the “the wall”.
7) How has this project impacted the local community involved in it? After the ramp was finished, was there any unexpected outcome from this project?
People from 5 years to 45 years old helped build the ramps. Kids who never met each other before the film are now best friends who skate together.
We first added a ramp to the Shore Park in Punta de Mita, Nayarit, Mexico. Following this first project, we added another ramp to the Puerto Vallarta Municipal Skatepark of Mexico.
In addition, the 3rd one was a first and completely new ramp in Havana, Cuba.
Two kids went back to school after dropping out, one kid is on a cross country tour with his new sponsors paying for the whole thing, ramps are continuing getting built, a girl in our film is hosting art shows around Mexico.
And, most importantly, people really believe in our movement way more than they did in the beginning and want to keep it alive.
8) So, what are the next steps? When can people expect to see the final project?
Post Production is in the final stages. We shall be entering the film into many festivals in the beginning of 2018.
The final project will hopefully be screening exclusively at a festival if we get accepted. And, after that we will have public screenings around the US & Mexico.
Thank you, Brian, for the great narrative about this fantastic journey of transforming a brilliant idea and bringing this project to life!
We certainly support the mission and believe in it changing the lives of so many more people. Thank you!
Furthermore, keep posted for upcoming new about the release and public screenings!
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Miguel Ángel López V. and Rebecca Scotti
*Last Update on Feb/2020.*