I Am Thalente will kick-flip it’s way into your soul! (Movie Review)

I Am Thalente will kick-flip it's way into your soul! (Movie Review)As a kid most of the people I hung around were BIG into skateboarding.  So naturally, I wanted to be a part of their merry urban adventures.  But alas, I could barely stay upright on a board, and the one or two times I ATTEMPTED to do a “trick” ended in disaster.  I even went so far as to study the great Tony Hawk and read his auto-biography in the hopes of stirring some sort of skater passion lying deep within me.  Eventually I realized that I just wasn’t meant to walk the path of four wheels and pursued other interests.  But when you watch Thalente (Pronounced Talent) or listen to him talk, you can just feel this kinetic energy and undying love that he has for skating.  There is no conceivable way that you could mistake his feelings for skating boarding as passing phase.  For this South African, skating is life, and life is skating.  It’s never really flat out said, but it’s pretty clear that if it weren’t for his board, he would’ve ended up a dead a long time ago.

I Am Thalente will kick-flip it's way into your soul! (Movie Review)

Growing up in an abusive household that eventually forced him out onto the streets, Thalente has pretty much only known a life of pain and struggle.  Fighting off child predators, drug dealers and cops, all while trying to figure out where his next meal will come from is just another Wednesday for him.  Thalente’s closest friend and confidant, Tammy-Lee, who’s known him almost all his life, has not only been helping him to survive on the streets, but she’s also the one person he felt he could turn to during his fight with drug addiction.

While in South Africa for a charity sports event, legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk first meets Thalente.  Even at the age of 15 the veteran skater could see borderline prodigious abilities in the South African youth.  Tony offer’s to sponsor him only to discover that he’s been living on the streets.  He takes it upon himself to try and find others that can try and support Thalente as he develops his skills.  Hawk does so for about a year but eventually looses contact with him.  The film flashes forward and Thalente is now 17.  He’s been in and out of jail for selling drugs and though he hopes to make a change in his life, he’s kinda settled into the idea of being homeless and fighting to survive everyday.  But he’s pragmatic and realizes that this path could lead to his early demise.  Despite all this, plus growing up in an abusive household, he still maintains an upbeat and friendly demeanor.  Something that’s rare to find with someone who’s had to overcome so much.

I Am Thalente will kick-flip it's way into your soul! (Movie Review)

The shots of Urban South Africa are truly fantastic.  You don’t often get the opportunity to see this side of the country.  As American’s we’re usually treated to bleak and somber depictions of their infamous slums.  But that’s not to say that the world at large shouldn’t be made aware of the hardships that these folks endure on a daily basis, it’s just that not every city in Africa is broken down, war-torn, or in the middle of a jungle!  Often times in this film I have  difficulty distinguishing between the shots of L.A. and South Africa!


The film takes an interesting turn when Tammy-Lee introduces Thalente to filmmaker Natalie Johns in the hope that she might be able to connect him with Pro skaters that could persuade him to pursue a career in skating.  Living on the street is something that he’s become so accustomed to that the idea of anything else seems to frighten him.  Even at the age of 11 Thalente was getting sponsorship offers but would turn them down because as he said, “I don’t skate so people can see me.  I just skate because it’s fun”.  He looks at skate boarding in such a pure way that the idea of going pro seems like a foreign concept to him.  But as the years pass he comes to the realization that he’ll probably die soon if he continues on his current path or homelessness.

I Am Thalente will kick-flip it's way into your soul! (Movie Review)I Am Thalente will kick-flip it's way into your soul! (Movie Review)

Professional skater Kenny Anderson offers to sort of take him under his wing when he comes to America.  He says himself that he’s not trying to be some kind of skating coach, but rather he wants to show Thalente that it is in fact possible to make a living with the thing you’re most passionate about.  While only having a 5th grade education, Thalente must also learn how to “Street Skate” in order to have any sort of chance of making it.  When he arrives in the states he discovers that there isn’t really a clear cut path to making a career out of skating.  As Anderson says, “Winning competitions isn’t really the way to build a career in this industry.  It’s more about getting footage of yourself in front of the right people.  Unfortunately people aren’t really interested in what you can do in a skate park.  They’d rather see your skills in urban areas.”  This is probably one of the biggest hurdles for Thalente.  As all of his abilities were developed in skate parks, which are much more agreeable to skate on as opposed to city streets and public walk ways.

This doc gives outsiders a very accessible look into the world of skating.  Up until I saw this film I always kinda viewed skate boarders as being in sort of their own exclusive club where you don’t really care about anyone unless they have something to do with skating.  But it seems that I was wrong in that assumption.  Even though they do skate on public and private areas, there is a real sense of community among these people.  Skate boarding has been depicted as more of a fashion statement than a real sport or activity that gives kids something positive in their lives.  Skating definitely isn’t the kinda of thing that isolates kids from socializing and exploring the world.  It’s actually quite the opposite.  It gives them the opportunity to express themselves and connect with people wherever they go.

I Am Thalente will kick-flip it's way into your soul! (Movie Review)
It’s really cool to watch Thalente not only get the opportunity to develop his street skating abilities, but also meet veterans and peers that look at skating the same way he does.  They show him that it is possible to have a pure approach to it while at the same time potentially creating a business for yourself.  This doc is fairly straight forward in what it’s trying to convey to the audience.  But in it’s simplicity there also lies a sense of honesty and purity that is rare to find in documentaries.  They could have easily inserted some sort of social or political message within Thalente’s story.  But that just wouldn’t have been representative of who HE is as a person.  I’m sure he has his own opinions about what goes on and how people live in South Africa.  But as you can plainly see as you watch this film, that’s just not where his heart lies.  The thing that gives him a reason to wake up in the morning, to inspire those around him, and to fight to survive has four little wheels and a wooden board that takes him on a journey he never thought possible.

“I Am Thalente” arrives in theaters and Digital Download May 13th


I Am Thalente will kick-flip it's way into your soul! (Movie Review)


Writer, Musician, Composer, Singer and Dancer. To sum up: I like to get jiggy with it!

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