ALL THE STREETS ARE SILENT: THE CONVERGENCE OF HIP-HOP AND SKATEBOARDING (1987-1997) -- A Very Academic Portrait of Counterculture
Review by Sean Boelman
With perhaps one of the most specific titles in documentary film history, Jeremy Elkin’s All the Streets Are Silent: The Convergence of Hip-Hop and Skateboarding (1987-1997) offers a very detailed look at this era of counterculture. Informative but extremely academic, this is a hard movie to recommend because of its nature, but it accomplishes exactly what it set out to do.
In the film, Elkin sets out to explore how hip-hop and skateboarding culture combined in Manhattan in the late 1980s and early 1990s to shape the time period in ways that we had never seen before or again. It’s interesting to see the intersection between these two related but seemingly different movements, although the level of specificity which it offers will limit the amount of people who see it.
Clocking in at under an hour and a half in length, there’s obviously a lot of ground to be covered here in a short period of time. Ultimately, there was probably enough material to make for a muti-episode docuseries, but Elkin opted for a feature format, focusing on specific important moments that really defined this movement.
Something interesting that Elkin does is that he makes the movie more about the movement as a whole rather than the people in it. Yes, we hear from and about some of the most important players in hip hop and skateboarding during this time, but this is more of an ode to the community that sprung up around this syncretism of these two worlds.
Ultimately, the film leaves something to be desired in both regards. The movie could have used a lot more skating footage, but instead spends more time on a discussion of skate culture. There’s a lot of talking and not much showing in this regard, but the film does a good job of educating the uninformed viewer about what living in this time was like.
The movie is perhaps more effective as a music documentary, but it is also a lot easier to pull that off, as the film has a soundtrack at its disposal. Viewers get to listen to the influence that this scene had on the evolution of music as it is discussed, and it’s something that is much more easily communicated, even to the untrained individual.
Elkin had a wealth of archive footage at his disposal, and he does a great job of utilizing it to transport the audience back in time to the era in which the movie is set. Still, it’s not a nostalgia-heavy documentary, with the footage existing less for longing this time and more to capture this time for future generations.
All the Streets Are Silent: The Convergence of Hip-Hop and Skateboarding (1987-1997) is not only a mouthful of a title, but also a brainful of a film. It’s an overwhelming documentary in many regards, and while it would have been nice to see a slightly less academic approach, it’s a good portrait of the generation it set out to capture.
All the Streets Are Silent: The Convergence of Hip-Hop and Skateboarding (1987-1997) is now in theaters.