A Long Beach skateboarder-turned-filmmaker has returned from the Cannes Film Festival with a prize for his short documentary, “Build Ramps Not Walls.”
“It was a dream come true even to be nominated, and be there in the conversation,” said Brian Adamkiewicz, a Brooklyn College graduate whose film won best student documentary at the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase, part of the French festival’s American Pavilion. “I’m so inspired to keep going. It felt like exactly where I needed to be.”
Adamkiewicz, 25, says he got the idea for his film in the summer of 2016, when he was teaching surfing and skateboarding at the Skudin Surf camp in Long Beach. One of his students, an 8-year-old Mexican-American boy nicknamed Nat, began worrying about the anti-immigrant sentiment that was gaining momentum in this country along with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. Adamkiewicz’s response was that the same materials that can be used to build a border wall — a major part of Trump’s platform — can also be used to build a skateboard ramp.
“The film is about his point of view,” Adamkiewicz says of young Nat. “This political situation is causing confusion and he’s scared. So instead of going through with the negative rhetoric from the wall, we show him an alternative.”
With a group of international volunteers, a film crew and funding from a Long Beach friend, Adamkiewicz headed to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and built a ramp for a local skateboard park there. Having learned Spanish at Long Beach High School, Adamkiewicz was able to conduct interviews in the local language, though he notes, “There’s no language barrier with skateboarding.”
Adamkiewicz visualizes “Build Ramps Not Walls” as a project that could be expanded into a feature film or television series. He has already filmed a similar skateboarding project in Cuba.
“This is the motivation I need to keep going,” Adamkiewicz says of his Cannes prize. “I’m reaching for the stars.”