As I’m sure anyone who has seen his films will agree, Pontus Alv is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating individuals in this strange web of culture, expression and creativity we like to call ‘skateboarding’. Never before has watching a video documenting the lives of others in skating granted the viewer with such personal insights into the filmmakers life and soul.
In his latest film, In Search Of The Miraculous, we see someone more than willing to bare all in the hope to inspire us to make the most of our temporary encounters with all things miraculous. In just a few questions, we learnt more about skating, filmmaking and life than most people ever share with others.
We begin our own search for the miraculous with an interview with Alv himself. How else were we meant to start?
Some people have noted that In Search Of The Miraculous seems like a consciously straighter and more accessible production than Strongest Of The Strange. Did you have this idea in mind when editing it or is it a coincidence?
It is not easy to make a film, but the main thing about my new film is that I wanted it to be as different as possible from my first film but for there still to be a link between them. In my first film I went into the darkness and I wanted define myself and what skateboarding is to me. In this film I am searching for the light in life, trying to see the beauty and the big picture. I want it to be light, colourful and inspiring. I find it harder to work with classic beautiful elements like a rainbow, a sunset and so on… but I also enjoy the challenge. I don’t like to talk and explain my work cause sometimes I don’t even know, I just go for a feeling and a spirit. If I can feel it perhaps others can too.
My inspiration and motivation is to inspire you to inspire yourself.
Alv at The Barrier Spot in 2004. Photo: Tobias Henriksson
I’d argue that the film simply tells a new story from a filmmaker who’s experienced more than in his past production. Indeed, experience and what we pass onto others struck me as a key theme in the film. What new things did you yourself learn about skateboarding in the process of making ISOTM?
Well like I said I am searching for the light in life, even if we go through hard times there will always be light. For example, some of my social sculptures in the past has been destroyed for whatever reason, and I could either just give up and do nothing, or I could keep going. Beautiful things are temporary and that’s why they are so wonderful. When I start building a new social sculpture I know it will be gone but the process and all the joy involved makes me feel alive and it puts a meaning to my life. I know it will be gone but it just makes it better cause you have to enjoy every moment you have together. If it would be permanent it would just be like a public skatepark which feels pretty dead and boring in the long term. Looking back at the last 10 years it is great that we got used to being bulldozed and it made us do more which gave us different things to ride over the years. And of course it created loads of good memories.
Learn about skateboarding? Well, it is the same rule as always… Skateboarding is a freeform and it is up to you to do whatever you like with it. It is just an instrument and there are no rules what so ever. It’s all up to you to do whatever you like with it. That is the beauty. No matter what direction the industry and world is going you can still do whatever you like. The same rule goes in life.
The Holma ramp on its way to heaven. Photo: Pontus Alv
The way in which skateboarding can give us an escape from the dark corners of our lives is at the forefront of ISOTM and SOTS, I think it’s uplifting and motivational to everyone watching, even for non-skateboarders. How do you begin the process of instilling something so personal (particularly the things connected with your father and family) to you into something that’s to be watched worldwide by people who don’t necessarily know much about you, if anything at all?
Yes my videos are personal and I like to mix in personal elements in my films. For me skateboarding is more than just tricks and I try to define the bigger picture. Everything we go through in life matters, our history and our present, our dreams, our future thoughts, our lovelife, work, friends and so on. How do I feel today? Well, when I step on my board I will know. If my heart is broken or my mind is messed up or my soul is stressed out my board will tell me and together we will express whatever feelings we are going through. That, for me, is one of the greatest things about skateboarding. It is always there for you, faithful and loving almost like a dog. We can always run away together and vent about life, whatever it may be, we can talk about sex, friends, history we can talk about everything and most of the time we will find a solution to almost everything or at least feel better about it. Talking things over with a really good friend helps, and this is why I love my skateboard so much. It’s my best friend and I hope we can grow old together somehow.
So what I am trying to say is that everything in life is linked, skateboarding is linked to everything else and vice versa. Most videos focus on the things within skateboarding… what happens at the spot and around the spot perhaps a coffee break inbetween, but most videos never deal with life itself or talk about. Don’t skateboarders have a life outside of skateboarding?
Move on and start again…
The video, like your last is dedicated to your father. His words of inspiration that you pick up on are reflected in how independent and influential your direction is. What do you think his reaction would be if he could see the film?
Who says he is not watching my films? They are here, I see signs and they guide me. I personally think they did most of the editing by controlling my thoughts and soul.
Torsten and Märta Alv
Your films regularly shun the typical conventions of skate videos by selling a narrative instead of a product or team. The skaters in are connected to you in a way that transcends sponsorship deals and stuff like that. In your editing technique you tend to stray away from standard time lapses and montages and instead borrow influence from cinematographers and magicians of the past like George Méliès. Who, or what in particular inspires you when making your films, and what does each skateboarder bring to the finished piece of work?
I find inspirations everywhere in life. My inspiration can come from anything and from nothing, from small little things you pick up here and there. I have a huge inspiration from the Alv family archive. It is a huge film and photo archive that starts around 1900. I grew up with it and I think this influenced me a lot. I also like everything from the beginning of photography and filmmaking, especially during the years 1900-1930. I am a big fan of Hans Richter.
And yes you are very right I am not trying to sell a product, I just want to show wonderful skateboarding of all types young old tech street pools ramps etc. I love it all and I want to give back as much as possible to skateboarding as possible because skateboarding gave me everything. I think it is the least I can do after all the things skateboarding gave me.
Pontus on the wall again. Photo: Jean Feil
As you’ve pointed out in the past, skateboarding has an inherent feeling of joy, freedom and creativity that’s almost inexplicable, but these feelings we associate with skating can often be crushed by the skate industry, sponsors, deadlines and the like. Sadly, I find it hard to imagine a world where skateboarding can exist independently of those factors for countless reasons, economical and otherwise. But your films still capture that freedom even in 2010. How can we, as skateboarders who love what the pastime has given our lives work together to make skateboarding better?
One thing that we all have to remember is that skateboard industry and business is not skateboarding, it is business. Skateboarding is really simple. It is what you do when you and your friends go skateboarding and have a wonderful or horrible time. The people that are involved with the industry or belonging to the elite skateboarding is just a very small percentage of the world’s skateboarders. We can be controlled by them or we can control ourselves. Like I said earlier, skateboarding is a freeform and it is up to you to do whatever you like with.
Briefly, where is the miraculous?
Right in front of you.
Watch the film in full here:
For a full review of In Search Of The Miraculous then head here. And stay tuned as we continue searching for the miraculous with Mr. Danijel Stankovich in an interview coming soon…