Cinema Review – Hill Street

Irish documentary Hill Street takes a look at the rise, fall and rise again of the Irish skateboarding scene, with particular attention paid to Clive’s Cycle Shop on the titular Hill Street, and how the proprietor helped skateboarding as a sport, a subculture and a social scene take off in Dublin.

As is mentioned in the early moments of Hill Street, Dublin in the 1980s could not have been further removed from the home of skateboarding, California, and yet – as the documentary reveals – this is a sport that has captured the hearts and minds of people around the world.

Crammed to bursting with interviews from early Irish skateboarding adopters, professionals such as Tony Hawk and the many that have been inspired by those that went before, Hill Street is not only a documentary about the origins of skateboarding in Ireland, but an examination of Dublin as a whole and of how people can shape the city they live in.

The documentary may well be aimed at Irish audiences, and an understanding of Ireland and Dublin is definitely an advantage, but there is something here for fans around the world. Dublin is shown as a city filled with tenacious and sometimes foolhardy people, who refused to let go of the sport they loved, even when it was labelled as a ‘fad’, when security guards chased them from every prime skating spot and when locals near Clive’s shop chased them both into and out of the store. Where Hill Street excels is showing how skating captured the imaginations of people at the other side of the world, and how people in rainy Dublin began to rival those in California for their dedication and skill.

Hill Street is an examination of skating, at its core, but it is also a look at people, their passions and their refusal to let public pressure or a lack of any official skateparks stop them from doing what they loved. Those of us who remember when Central Bank was a hub for skaters will probably remember being annoyed at their presence in the centre of the city, but in watching the documentary, it is hard not to be impressed at their drive and resolve. Every time a skater is chased away from a public building, it becomes harder and harder to root for the security guards. The trouble with the film, however, is a slightly scattered focus and the feeling that once we move closer to the present day, the film begins to run out of steam.

Hill Street is a niche documentary that celebrates the tenacious underdog as they desperately hold on to the sport that they love. The film is a trip down memory lane for Dubliners, and reveals a new side to the city that we have lived in perhaps all of our lives.

Rating: 4/5

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