Hill Street – Film Review

Director: JJ Rolfe

Starring: Johno, Shaggy, Clive Rowen and Roger Kavanagh

Release Date: TBC

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The history of the Irish skating community is told from its early inception, with references to its beginnings in the United States, along with its struggles with local authorities and its desire for recognition as a legitimate athletic activity, in Hill Street, an Irish documentary directed by JJ Rolfe.

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In many ways, Hill Street was an unexpected treat. Its decided subject is perfectly niche and something that any audience can get behind. Telling the story of a small community like this has its challenges, but in a good documentary the joy of good details alone can make the viewing worthwhile.

The details in this film are quite good and there’s clearly a solid amount of research behind it. While I truly don’t know, it’s very possible that the director and the production team’s involvement in this story is personal, but either way, the material is there and it proves endearing.

The problem with Hill Street is that it does very little to augment that material. It is a production that has assembled the right pieces but doesn’t do a lot to present them to you with the best parts or in the right order.
An unfortunate result of this is that even though its runtime is a not at all extensive 82 minutes, it ultimately feels overlong by the end.

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I believe this to be a particular issue with Irish films and that this is an example of that issue where a film plays it way too safe and doesn’t at all try to adopt an attitude or get into any detail about the stories and information that the documentary covers.

It’s almost as if the film expresses a fear that any further detail other than the broad coverage it gives, would be in some way silly or boring so it doesn’t even take on the challenge of making it not silly or not boring.
The film is a standard talking heads and stock footage assembly (no shame in that), and a lot of the material used of the interviewees feels very conclusive and doesn’t really allow the audience to think very deeply about any part of the subject.

What’s particularly frustrating about this is that culturally, skateboarding is something very akin to punk rock, something that embodies a shameless and in-your-face attitude, but this is a film that really presents itself in a very neutral way, which feels very self-contradictory.

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Despite the film not hitting hard at all, the content is still endearing. Although, ultimately I don’t think it’s a film that will interest a lot of people, when it could have easil been.
But if you’re interested in this topic then it’ll be worthwhile to see this film. There is a point though, where the documentary’s supposed story arc feels like it has passed, and then there’s still a lot more that the film goes on to say which leaves it to drag on a bit.

In the end, despite some very strong structural flaws, I enjoyed Hill Street for its content. It’s topic and material are strong and solid, but it lacks discipline leaving its appeal to suffer.

Score: 3/5
Written by Seamus Hanly

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