PREMIERE / "Abyssal" / José Francisco / INTERVIEW

As our feed thus far this summer can attest, skate production has been booming in Brazil recently - or so it may seem to the foes most unfamiliar with anything but the tip of that exotic iceberg. As discussed in our recent interview with young Rio De Janeiro local, Sergio Santoro, in reality, the energy stemming from the entire - massive - country is actually timeless, and strong of as many personifications as it has engendered individual, local scenes throughout the decades. It really should be a given that, like most everywhere even remotely skatable on the planet, Brazil always bred generations worth of locally renowned legends and tales and yet, to this day the language barrier can still persist when it comes to exporting such sunshine overseas - prompting many to summarize "Brazilian skateboarding" just to #slidesandgrinds and the occasional holidays Trip video upload, for the lack of more accessible information, accurate orientation and generally easier access to the reality of the insiders' culture.
Now, the topic isn't without being reminiscent of a wider debate within skateboarding and its most emotionally involved enthusiasts altogether; despite pop culture having swallowed the image of the activity whole over the past two decades, essentially reappropriating it for mass branding purposes (with the positive side effect of potentially introducing some of its magic to many a new kid), who's to say that skateboarding no longer belongs to those who are actually doing it? Who's to say that worldwide validation and unicorn lives matter, when secluded communities grow so strong by themselves that the dimension of their existence alone suffices to render the whole idea of serious competition in skateboarding as invalid as a mere joke?
But now, validation and recognition are two different things. Whilst the former is delusional, the latter is all about duly paying tribute to the most interesting local productions and crazy activists behind them, opening borders, gaining perspectives and building bridges over trenches. In today's case, with the presentation of "ABYSSAL", said trenches are as rough and rugged as the average LIVE reader should expect by now if they have been following our incessant stream of Brazilian e-postcards. The film is by José Francisco, based in Anápolis and participant in the eponymous multimedia collective; and it is now free to watch above but before you do go peep, make sure you keep scrolling a bit further down, for an intense 5W's session with quite the sincere video maker!

LIVE Skateboard Media: Hey José, can you introduce yourself to us and explain where you’re from? Were you born in Anápolis? Can you describe the city and the local lifestyle? Can you share some knowledge about the local skate scene? Are there any local videos (past and present) from your area we should check out, or some names the world should get to know?

José Francisco: I am José Francisco, art director and Brazilian skater.

I started skateboarding when I was three years old, and only at ten did I get in touch with my first magazine where I could catch a glimpse of tricks, skateboarders and the general industry.

"In the midst of these traditions, skateboarding remains a subversive agent"

So before that, my representation was that the skateboard was just a toy, that I would reinterpret with my own tricks. Honestly, that was the stage when I had the most fun on my skateboard: everything was so genuine and playful, it was based only on the sensations and discoveries.

Anápolis is located in the center of Brazil, between the cities of Brasilia and Goiânia which are the capitals of Brazil and of my state, respectively.

It is a city the kind of which evolves slowly, due to feeling very comfortable and I believe that the stimulus of skateboarding - or art altogether - generates discomfort, like it's a provocation. The city maintains cultural and religious traditions that directly affect the behavior of people, especially the youth. In the midst of these traditions, skateboarding remains a subversive agent.

Ph.: Bunker Skateshop

After some research I discovered that in the late eighties, here, there used to be a shop called Bunker Skateshop that would organize small events and spread the culture. The two photos here date all the way back to 1989! It also had a pretty fun bowl (ironically, where the courthouse is currently located); I believe that was the beginning of the scene in the city. Then in the late nineties and early naughts, skateboarding finally blew up here; many people started to skate, some skateshops and a skatepark opened and hosted championships and professional demos. That was a phase that is still remembered to this day. We had such good skaters!

Ph.: Bunker Skateshop

Unfortunately, there are only some video parts and a handful of event videos left to testify. "ABYSSAL" is a local first, as far as the 'traditional' video format. But the Brasilia and Goiânia locals have made plenty of good videos, so they are a reference and an inspiration for sure. I could name several names, but Guilherme Henrique and Vitor de Castro are my favorite skateboarders in the city, the way they read and interpret the streets, the intimacy they have with skateboarding is something wonderful to watch. You can witness their magic in the video.

"For a long time, I felt that I wasn't prepared enough to produce something that skateboarding would deserve"

LSM: What is your background in skateboarding, and in skate film making? Is "ABYSSAL" your first ever video effort? Also, you told me you were an art director, can you explain some common sensibilities you find in art and skateboarding, if any?

José: I was never a skateboarder with superhuman abilities; I quickly realized that it would be more fun to me to create for skateboarding than just practice it. So I started doing illustrations, zines, some early experimental photos. After college, I went on to create some series of graphics for local companies, and got to film and edit some ads and video parts - all very timid.

"ABYSSAL" is my first video, and it's completely independent and personal work. For a long time, I felt that I wasn't prepared enough to produce something that skateboarding would deserve. Skateboarding has brought me so many good things over the years, I had the desire to reciprocate and contribute to our community in the best way I thought I could.

Vitor De Castro, frontside nosebluntslide. Ph.: Jean 

I believe that art and skateboarding are tools, means, ways that allow us to create, improvise, interpret, dialogue and question. I see it as a toy but at the same time, as a modern social and artistic movement.

It's one way to occupy cities with performance, and that's beautiful!

LSM: Who are the skaters featured in "ABYSSAL"? Are they all from Anápolis, do they belong to different generations? What do you feel like they have in common? Are they all hardcore street skaters? A lot of those spots looked so rugged...

José: They are all my friends who were hanging out with me during the filming process; most are from Anápolis and Goiânia. Some started skateboarding around the time of the skateboarding boom I mentioned above and persisted, whereas some others have been skating for a lesser period of time.

I would like to highlight names such as Guilherme, Vitor and Jessika, a girl who destroys everything and walks any terrain in the best style possible.

"I want people to hear the noise of the wheels"

What they have in common, as well as with the vast majority of Brazilians: they are real street warriors. Little to no governmental financial investment in the people's lives makes it that everyone goes for everything out of love, through feelings and experiences.

Another major problem in Brazil is the lack of actual urban planning and eventual mobility. Cities are just happening, and most of them certainly must be driven through by car. One of the points of "ABYSSAL" is to show the difficulty and love that inhabits skating in my region. I want people to hear the noise of the wheels. The asphalt is awful and the sidewalks do not follow any pattern.

I think this is one crucial point that tends to make Brazilian skaters so good: they create and improvise upon the difficulties. Another point might be that we are a mixture of races and peoples: Africans, Indigenous, Europeans and Asians, so we carry very ancient and mixed genetics.

LSM: When did you decide you would be making this video, and how did it come together? How did you decide on such a strong, classic look with the Sony VX-1000, what is your relationship with that camera, any inspirations in terms of VX skate video makers and filmers perhaps?

José: I grew up watching copies of copies of 411VM issues, as well as some Brazilian videos; and my house was where my friends would gather to watch everything because I was the skate video kid of the group. I was always hooked on videos and, with that, drawn to the desire to make some. I always knew that at some point in my life, I would buy a camera and start shooting.

"It started from the desire to repay skateboarding for what it has been bringing into my life"

My friends needed someone to document and display their skateboarding so, around 2015, that moment came.

In addition to the specific visual and sound aesthetics we already know and love from the VX, I decide to use this camera as language, for the experimentalism and the spontaneity that it offers. Every day on the streets is unique, it's never the same thing going down twice. For this type of format, the VX seems ideal to me.

I wanted the viewer to have an experience beyond the tricks, and the video to be a visual journey in an experimental atmosphere. Greg Hunt and Cotinz were my inspirations as skateboarders video makers as well as Chris Thiessen, and Josh Roberts.

Gaspar Noé and Harmony Korine were inspirations in traditional cinema.

LSM: Finally, why the urge of making "ABYSSAL"? What did the working process mean to you, did you try to express certain feelings in particular and communicate a message (even if just a visual postcard of you guys’ thing), what was your goal with the video if any - and are you satisfied with how it all came out? And now - do you already plan on starting anew with another fresh project, or are you going to be chilling for a bit?

José: It started from the desire to repay skateboarding for what it has been bringing into my life throughout the twenty-five years I've been doing it, and to show a part of my scene, my friends and how much they can do with so little.

During the process we began to recognize ourselves, maybe even value ourselves more. It's common to get distracted by events of all kind that actually happen far away from us; what goes down in the big city centers, or in the mainstream media. So for me, this was the most valuable: to define and awaken the value that my friends and I have.

"The world within us is greater than the outside world" - this applies both to individuals and groups of them.

I was pleased to complete a project, however small. But I want to greatly improve my footage and editing, for sure. I plan to make more videos soon, addressing other themes and creating other atmospheres. Chilling? Never!

Ph.: Jean
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