Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims were students at California Institute of the Arts when they happened upon Garrison Saenz and Kevin Conway, a pair of goofy and charismatic teenage skater punks who became the subjects of their wonderful debut film, Only the Young. The documentary follows the pair, as well as friend/love interest Skye Elmore, as they kill time in their recession-hit small desert town; primarily they skate, explore foreclosed homes, and muse to the camera about friendship, romance, faith and growing up. Nothing much really happens, and the 72-minute film does feel a bit slight, but the filmmakers are more interested in artfully capturing a snapshot of adolescence than in cramming as much narrative and information as possible — there is no narration or over-arching message, nor are there any parents or talking heads present — and this careful restraint makes for a refreshing change. Only the Young is beautifully lensed and employs some impressionistic non-linear editing to create a cinematic and moving coming-of-age story that feels closer to an indie high-school drama — if Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark’s films had a (less disturbing) non-fiction offspring, this would be it — and the result is one of the most unique and welcome documentaries of the past year.
Only the Young is currently screening at the Documentary Edge Festival. For more information visit their website, and see the trailer below.