The new Skate or Die documentary shows how skateboarding saved one teen from gang life. Now they just need someone to edit their footage into an actual film.
In 2007, Azam Ahmed, a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune, wrote a piece, entitled “Kick, Push, Kick, Push, Escape,” about how skateboarding was saving teens in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods from the gang life that takes so many of their peers. At the time, it was just a stand-alone piece, but after documentary filmmaker, Ryan Ferguson, read the article, he decided it would make a great film. He teamed up with Ahmed to find a subject he could focus on.
So started an almost 4 year search for the titular subject of Anderson’s film: Skate or Die. After talking with every kid they could find in local parks and skate shops, Azam and Anderson found Leo Castillo, a teenager from southeast Chicago’s predominantly Mexican neighborhood, Little Village. Castillo’s brothers, cousins and uncles are all in gangs, and he witnessed an older brother get shot and killed by Chicago PD when he was younger. Skateboarding offered its own community, one with a much higher life expectancy.
Unfortunately for Leo, he couldn’t escape the neighborhood he was raised in, and he was shot in the leg while sitting on his grandmother’s porch. The ensuing injury caused permanent nerve damage that threatened to derail the very activity, skateboarding, that was keeping him safe from the gangs that are often the only collective for kids with his background to affiliate with. From the trailer it seems Leo, in true Adrenalist fashion, did not let the injury set him back.
Azam and Ryan reached the Skate or Die Kickstarter project goal yesterday, and plan to edit some 100 hours of footage they’ve shot of Leo and other skaters in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood.
If you’re looking for a true Adrenalist, the filmmaking duo of Ryan Ferguson and Azam Ahmed has found one of the best, and they plan to share the story of Leo Castillo with others. Adrenalist passions like skateboarding can, quite literally, save lives.