Skateistan is an aberration in the Afghan capital of Kabul: a co-educational school that teaches young people the principles of skateboarding and isolated bits of good citizenry.
Orlando von Einsiedel’s short documentary provides a tantalizing glimpse into this unique endeavor. A few young people and one of the school’s organizers, Australian Sharna Nolan, are interviewed about the impact of Skateistan on the lucky youths who are part of its program. The film also sneaks in some fairly obvious political commentary: numerous shots of bombed-out buildings and burkha-clad women show a distinctive lack of social progress after nearly a decade of foreign military occupation, while one teenager bemoans the evaporation of peace once the Taliban was expelled from power.
Sadly, the nine-minute short leaves far too many questions unanswered: Who is financing Skateistan? How can the children of dreadfully poor families afford expensive skateboards and helmets? Have there been threats against the school and its organizers from Islamic militants? And just how are the skateboarding lessons being used – are there any skateboard competitions in Afghanistan, or can the kids compete abroad?
There is another film, a feature-length documentary on Skateistan, that is also in circulation, and perhaps that production can offer more depth to this intriguing yet elusive subject.