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By Phil Hall | January 24, 2011

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.

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  1. Mark Pawlak says:

    This is great! I also picked up a piece about skating in Iraq recently. I would be happy to write up a review of the Skateistan film helping to get it out there.

    We should be looking at supporting more activities for the next generation of young Afghanis; there’s plenty of money flooding in, lets see some go into sports and recreation for young people who have known years of bombs and bullets.

  2. Sondhi says:

    Agree that this short doc is lacking needed background. Looks good and has a great subject, but leaves you wanting more. This is part of the Sundance online short film program, so you can watch the film and get my thoughts at

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