SXSW FILM 2012
By Don Simpson | March 17, 2012
Director: Jacob Rosenberg
If you know anything about skateboarding, you have probably heard the name Danny Way. Director Jacob Rosenberg’s Waiting for Lightning covers Way’s early entry into the world of skateboarding — he turned pro at age 13; was named Thrasher Magazine Skater Of The Year at age 14 — as well as his uncanny ability to break world record after world record despite enduring injuries that would have sidelined most athletes forever. To fill in the pieces of Way’s backstory, Waiting for Lightning intersperses countless interviews from his family and peers with some really mesmerizing archival skateboarding footage. (There are also a few reenactments thrown in for good measure.)
It is very important to note that Way enlisted Rosenberg to film this documentary to promote his attempt to jump the Great Wall of China — that explains why Rosenberg continuously cuts away from Way’s biography to keep us updated on the construction status of an enormous ramp and quarter pipe at the Great Wall. It feels like every five to ten minutes an intertitle flashes on screen “xx Days Until Jump” followed by a shot of the ramp. I understand that this is precisely what all of the historical background in Waiting for Lightning is building towards, but the structure (which is clearly intended to build anticipation and tension) turns the documentary into an ADHD kid who is anxious for the main event. It is almost as if Rosenberg is saying, I know all of this jibber jabber is boring you to death, but hang in there the big jump is coming!
If you ask me, Way’s background is much more interesting and important than the jump itself. Rather than trying to drum up excitement for Way’s jump of the Great Wall, why not just treat that event equally to the other chapters in Way’s life? Over the course of 25+ years, there were countless occasions when Way pushed the limits of skateboarding to previously unfathomable extremes. Way did this despite losing several father figures and role models along the way. His story is truly an emotional rollercoaster, but it is also incredibly inspirational (and a bit insane). Rosenberg’s excuse seems to be that Way’s entire life has been building up to his epic leap across the Great Wall. I can understand that logic, I just do not agree with it.