Runtime: 12 minutes
Director: Madeleine Chapman
By Juli Horsford
Director Madeleine Chapman takes us on a journey to the far reaches of New Zealand where Lee Ralph resides on a farm. He tends to the animals there and works as a farmhand to make it by. Ralph’s face is lined with age and he’s missing a few teeth. You’d never know he was once a skateboarding legend.
Chapman introduces us to Ralph as he explains his history with skateboarding. He’d always been into it as a kid, despite his dad’s protests. He leapt to the top of the amateurs in New Zealand with the help of his mentor Gregor Rankine and eventually became good enough to head to the U.S. In the States, he was skateboarding with big names like Tony Hawk and eventually being signed by Vision as a professional. That is until a technicality got him deported from the U.S. and shattered his chances of becoming a household name.
Ralph is an interesting character, quick with a laugh and eager to talk about his skateboarding days. His storytelling is intriguing enough on its own, but Chapman combines his charm with archival footage of Ralph as a teenager shredding a few halfpipes and competing at the highest level. This twelve-minute documentary short packs a punch as we are whisked on a journey of what could have been. Not that Ralph dwells too much on what he’s lost. He’s a wood carver now and has won competitions in the U.S. which he is proud to talk about.
But it’s the skateboarding that is clearly his true passion. Perhaps the most moving part of “Scratched” is when Chapman catches Ralph reminiscing about what might have happened if he hadn’t been deported. Although he says he’s come to terms with it, his eyes reveal a profound sadness that say otherwise. Chapman’s lingering close-up of Ralph’s face says more in five seconds than countless hours of interviews ever could. “Scratched” showcases the joys and sorrows of life in the form of a man who has retained his smile throughout.