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Dreams ON Board, a Documentary on Kovalam Skateboarders

All it takes is just that one spark and the right amount of air to light a fire. Meet Hafis Ak, an upcoming filmmaker working at capturing raw talent in deprived surroundings, in conversation with Inspire Crew. His latest documentary project Dreams ON Board, features the uncompromising hard work of S.I.S.P.

(​Sebastian Indian Social Projects) trying their best to light hope amongst the young kids of Kovalam. All that these kids need is the right kind of support and love and now the skate-park in Kovalam is on fire.

Here’s a peak into Hafis’ experience while he filmed these mini skate pros.

Still from the film' Dreams on Board'
Still from the film' Dreams on Board'

Tell us in brief about yourself?

I am Hafis Aboobacker from Thrissur district in Kerala, India. I am an aspiring filmmaker who believes art is a medium which has no language. I choose visual language to express my vision and thoughts. I started my career as a cinematographer and "Dreams On Board" is my first independent project. I am focused on both movies and documentaries.

How did you come up with the idea of making a film on skateboarding in Kovalam?

I had been to Kovalam earlier, but at that time I didn't know about the skate club. I came to know about the Kovalam Skate Club through an Instagram post shared by a friend. The post captured my attention and I collected their address and set forth. I met Paul, the founder of S.I.S.P, Vineeth, the coach of the skate club and visited the skate park. I researched more about the organisation and their activities and was so impressed. I had heard about similar skate clubs in Bangalore, but had the least idea about a skate club or a skate park present in Kerala. It was from the realisation that I decided to document this. I wanted to give them an exposure they lacked and wanted the world to know about S.I.S.P and the Skate Club.

Still from the film.
Still from the film.

So, when did you actually start working on it?

The post production work began once we got approval for the shoot from Paul. On our first visit, Paul was filled with doubts about our genuineness. Earlier, fake groups had come requesting permission for the shoot. Once they got the footage they needed, they disappeared from the radar and later the video was seen uploaded with a false plea for support. They pointed the financial support links to their personal bank account details. All in all, a complete scam.

We got approval only after providing our IDs and sharing our concept with them. The day scheduled for us was so tight that we had to make necessary arrangements in that short period and left for Kovalam within 4 days. We had to complete the shoot within 3 days by the end of last November (2018), as Vineeth, the coach, had other plans for the following month.

Interview with Joshan's mom from his house, Vizhinjam. Pic credit: Alwin John
Interview with Joshan's mom from his house, Vizhinjam. Pic Credit: Alwin John

What is the skateboarding scene in Kovalam like?

The skate park at Kovalam is one of it's kind in Kerala. The skateboard club was found by Paul, as part of the non- charitable organisation called S.I.S.P. The first sport they introduced was surfing, but that was seasonal. So in-order to utilise the off season time, and to involve more girls in their program, they came up with the Kovalam Skateboard Club. Children from not very privileged backgrounds learn skateboarding and it has given wings to their dreams. They have participated and won various National-Level competitions.

I feel, me and my crew are truly honoured to be able to document their lives. The very second day of the shoot, I realised that some of these kids are going to be tomorrow's pro Indian skateboarders for sure! I can surely say that some of these kids from Kovalam Skate Club can represent India in the Olympics. They are that good and their passion for skateboarding is that high.

The best part of shooting these kids?

Their innocence! And their enthusiasm, and the passion they show towards this sport. I was surrounded by kids after school hours and their intellect surprised me. Those kids were mature beyond their age and I am sure they will succeed if given proper guidance.

Kids with Coach Vineeth. Pic Credit: Alwin John
Kids with Coach Vineeth. Pic Credit: Alwin John

The worst part?

The most difficult task I faced was to shoot in remote village. As an outsider, it wasn't easy to gain their trust. Walking with camera isn’t an easy thing in villages here. They were unsure whether to trust me because of the fraudulent experiences earlier. The other hard part was trying to interview the girl skateboarders. They were so intimidated and conscious about the camera. I wanted them to speak their mind, but it didn’t go well unfortunately as I had limited time in hand for them to be familiar with me and open up.

S.I.S.P is trying their best to bridge the gender gap. They promote ‘Girls First and Girl Skateboarders’! It is one of their main agendas to change this inferior nature amongst girls and bring them forward through skateboarding.

Achu and Vidya on ramp from SISP skate park. Pic Credit: Alwin John
Achu and Vidya on ramp from SISP skate park. Pic Credit: Alwin John

Best memories of shooting?

Spending time with the kids. They motivate each other and are truly an inspiration to all of us.

Why do you think that these kids practising something which is very new to people should be known?

These kids are coming from the poorest of the poor backgrounds. Earlier, they used to loiter around bunking classes and selling fish. They didn't have an ambition or dream. Skateboarding taught them how to dream, a purpose for their lives and made their lives more meaningful. The dedication they show, is a matter of survival too.

Rahul from his village Vizhinjam. Pic Credit: Hafis
Rahul from his village Vizhinjam. Pic Credit: Hafis

What do you want to convey through your film?

I want the world to know about S.I.S.P, the skate club and their hard work. I believe in chances which S.I.S.P is trying to bring. One skater told me, when they try a new trick, it gives them a feeling equivalent to seeing God. I want other kids to see the God who they can only dream of.

Your earlier projects?

"Dreams On Board" is my first independent work. My earlier projects include "New India" which is a short film and a documentary on "Shingari Melam" which is undergoing post production work.

Joshan enjoying his day with his love. Pic credit: Vishnu T Chandran
Joshan enjoying his day with his love. Pic Credit: Vishnu T Chandran

Upcoming projects?

Currently I am working on a short feature script. So the pre-production work is going on. By mid July the shoot should start.

Any kid who stood out to you in particular? Rahul is one kid we need to keep our eyes out for. He talks, dreams and lives skateboarding. His motive to attend school is just skating. He waits eagerly for the clock to strike 4 after school hours, that's when the skate park opens.

BTS of DREAMS ON BOARD, Rahul on right and Kichu on left. Pic Credit: Shefin sha
BTS of DREAMS ON BOARD, Rahul on right and Kichu on left. Pic Credit: Shefin sha

What do you think about inspire crew? I came to know about Inspire crew through Instagram. I learned that your team works for the empowerment of women which I personally support with my whole heart.

Joshan with his skateboard. Giving room provide Kovalam skate Club free skateboards. Pic Credit:Hafis
Joshan with his skateboard. Giving room provides Kovalam skate Club free skateboards. Pic Credit:Hafis

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