Death scares and intrigues humans. We have tried many times to communicate the mish mash of feelings we have towards it in film time and time again. Something that happens to all of us, both directly and indirectly, death is something which we have tried to work out on the big screen. This time it is director Katherine Propper who steps up to the plate with her short documentary, Street Flame.
It is a 12 minute short which focuses on a group of teenage friends who are skateboarders. All of their lives are turned upside down when one of their own unexpectedly dies. Jinx dies. As one of them states, her name finally caught up with her. How the others attempt to communicate and ritualize her passing is examined.
Many of us have seen videos in which a herd of elephants stands around the body or even the decomposed remains/bones of a former herd mate. It intrigues us that they – animals – seemed to be so affected by the loss of one that they mourn and commemorate the occurance. How animals or even humans who are different from ourselves handle and mark death interests us. We want to see it for ourselves. See how they act.
Not many out there are skateboarders. Some of us are frightened by them. The teenagers who hang around in parks and whiz by us. Seemingly unafraid of injuring themselves. Performing tricks which heighten the chances of what most of us go lengths to avoid – scrapes, bruises, twisted ankles and even broken bones. Their bravado is something. So when one dies we suppose they would just callously move on. Street Flames shows us how they do mourn a loss of one of their own. Watching their grieving process holds our attention just as much as the video of the herd of elephants.
Written, directed and editted by Propper, she truly is a woman with a vision. First released in 2018, the film features a group of teenage first time actors who all turn in strong performances. A real sense of camaraderie is established between the members of the group and it all feels quite organic. In a very short amount of screen time, the film shows their strong bonds and despite their closeness how each handles the death in a different way. It also, without hitting the viewer over the head, conveys how you cannot have preconceptions about a group of people. People will surprise you. Gotta get to know people before you make decisions.