‘Humanity Stoked’ a Skater Documentary about Overcoming Fear Screened at NBFF – Review

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Humanity Stoked‘ a Skater Documentary about Overcoming Fear Screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Humanity Stoked Trailer from Humanity Stoked on Vimeo.

Humanity Stoked‘ is not another skateboarding documentary. It doesn’t just talk about grinding, kick flips, doing an ollie or anything of that sort. At it’s core, ‘Humanity Stoked‘ is a documentary about overcoming fear, anxiety and erasing past regrets to move forward.

First time filmmaker, Michael Ien Cohen has never read a filmmaking book, nothing on how to write a screenplay or even a cinematography course. Cohen has always had a passion for film and that passion lead him to purchase a used camera and set out on a journey of a lifetime.

What was original a trip to Cuba with Rene Lecour, to help out with Amigo Skate, turned into a something greater than sharing the love of skateboarding in Cuba, but a journey of self-discovery, overcoming fear, anxiety and trying to  push humanity forward.

The documentary features Steve Van Doren, CEO of Vans and son of co-founder Paul Van Doren, legends from the Z-Boys like Tony Alva and Peggy Oki, through to Tony Hawk, Brian Anderson, Ray Barbee, Christian Hosoi, Lizzie Armanto, Vanessa Torres, along with the skating principal, Hamish Brewer and world renowned astrophysicist and former wrestler and skater, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The skating community has always been the sport for outcasts and misfits, at least they people outside thought of it as such. However, it has been one of the most inclusive sports throughout the world for those who did not fit in with the “Big Three Crowd.”

As far as skating has come, it seeks to be even more inclusive than previous decades. Tony Hawk even admits that they were a great deal of misogyny within the sport during his youth and fear of homosexuality, until Brian Anderson kicked out that door and came out of the closet. Now with transgender skaters starting to gain representation within the sport who faced similar discrimination like people of color did in previous generations. Take Ray Barbee for example, who went to the Guttermouth when he was a teenager in Huntington Beach, CA and was chased out by skinheads because he is Black.

Peggy Oki opened the door for Asian and female skaters just a decade or so before Ray Barbee was able to do so for Black skaters.

Michael Ien Cohen takes on this journey with him and makes even those of us that did not skate apart of not only his rediscovered passion for film and breaking out of his comfort zone, but showing us what all these other people were capable of doing so in their own right. People like Christian Hosoi who has been sober for nearly 23 years and now is a pastor in Costa Mesa, CA, or Brandon Novak, who professes that his lowest low was when his bottom met him on the head on.

At various times, ‘Humanity Stoked‘ tackles multiple topics, but once you realize that Cohen was intentional in this style of documentary making, and with having zero film experience besides buying a movie ticket to the multiplex, you are blown away at his level of talent and achievement. He was able to tell a story in a way that some documentarians have not been able to pull off in a 20 plus year career.

Not only was this Cohen’s first project, but cinematographer and editor, Ian B. Gibson worked on this as his first project shortly graduating film school!

Cohen, Gibson and the entire cast show us that we can push beyond the limitations we have set for ourselves and move forward, then greatness awaits us on the other end.

For more information about ‘Humanity Stoked‘ and the charities they work with visit their official website at humanitystoked.com. Follow ‘Humanity Stoked‘ on Instagram @humanitystoked.



Michael Ien Cohen’s ‘Humanity Stoked‘ makes us feel as if we are apart of his journey in overcoming fear through the world of skateboarding and makes you want to stand up to whatever we have lurking in our own shadows.

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