Skateboard film shot in Burma a hit

Hot Knees Media camera operator and producer James Holman (right), of Queenstown, films his co-producer, skateboarder Alex Pasquini, in Mandalay, in 2009, for their new online documentary <i>Altered Focus: Burma</i>. Photo supplied.
Hot Knees Media camera operator and producer James Holman (right), of Queenstown, films his co-producer, skateboarder Alex Pasquini, in Mandalay, in 2009, for their new online documentary Altered Focus: Burma. Photo supplied.
Co-produced by a Queenstown film-maker, skateboarding in Burma is the unusual focus of a documentary garnering praise around the world.

Altered Focus: Burma was released online last month and has already featured on BBC America's First Person, CNN, Mpora.com, CaughtintheCrossfire.com and Transworld Skateboarding. The cross-genre documentary was expected to be mentioned in the next Lonely Planet, the film's producers said.

The 18-minute film was devised and produced by the three featured British skateboarders and charts their experiences in Burma for more than three weeks in 2009. The documentary records their interactions with Burmese people, many of whom have never seen skateboarding, and touches upon the politics of the military-ruled southeast Asian country.

Hot Knees Media camera operator and producer James Holman (29), a Queenstown resident of 14 months and longtime skateboarder, joined friends Alex Pasquini (25), also a Hot Knees camera operator and co-producer, and Ali Drummond (22), a semi-professional skateboarder; for the expedition.

The media duo always wanted to expand their portfolio from action sports documentaries to include factual entertainment.

Mr Drummond's enthusiasm for Myanmar was infectious and the sale of a previous package in Europe financed the trip.

"It was really interesting," Mr Holman said.

"Before we went, we had friends and family stressing about us going there. We got to Bangkok and applied for our Burmese visas and a journalist said, 'You can't go in there with cameras'. He put the fear of God in us."

Mr Holman said the largest Burmese city, Rangoon, was "a wet and depressing place to be".

The trio were acutely aware they were being watched and followed.

However, the three did encounter about 10 Burmese teenagers skateboarding in a 1970s-style skate park who knew the same skate brands as the Westerners.

Mr Holman said, by contrast, the region of Mandalay was sunny and warm. The Burmese people were "some of the kindest people you'd ever meet".

The travellers taught English to Burmese monks in a monastery in the mornings, then played football with them in the afternoons.

However, skateboarding was a mystery to the Mandalayans, Mr Holman said.

"Nobody had seen anything like it. Some of the reactions are awesome. The camera pans around them and the people are laughing and clapping."

Altered Focus: Burma can be viewed free on www.hotknees.com.