Filmmakers capture 3 women and their journeys in Ottawa skate parks


Local filmmakers share the stories of three women whose lives intersect in Ottawa skate parks through a newly released Ottawa documentary, filmed and produced during the pandemic.

I Am: Limitless is a one-hour documentary following three women of colour carving out a space for themselves and others at Ottawa’s skate parks.

The lives of the skateboarders and roller skaters intersect here where they find common ground: joy on wheels. It was produced by Firegrove Studio, a collaboration between Ottawa filmmakers Mailyne Briggs, Hingman Leung and Adrienne Row–Smith.

“Showing up to a park for the first time when you don’t look like everybody else, you’re on a different set of wheels than everybody else — it’s terrifying,” said Armonía Joachim, a South Asian roller skater, in the film.

“You’re coming into a space that is dominated by people who are not like you.”

Adrienne Row–Smith, right, looks into the camera during the documentary shoot as skateboarders ride in the background. (Firegrove Studio)

Briggs said the film shows how three “very different individuals” congregate at the same place and use the sports as a way to be a part of a community, but also to navigate their identities and mental health.

“They all have different lives, they’re all different ages, and on sort of different career paths,” said Briggs, director of photography and sound design.

That can be, at times, intimidating for women, as skate parks have generally been a space for white, cisgendered men, she explained.

“We’re still navigating how welcoming the skate park is for different people … It really does depend on what wheels you’re on and who you are and what you look like,” said Briggs, who’s also a skateboarder.

The film was produced by Firegrove Studio, a collaboration between Ottawa filmmakers Mailyne K. Briggs, Hingman Leung and Adrienne Row–Smith. Briggs, right, is filming one of the women featured in the film. (Adrienne Row-Smith)

Pandemic didn’t stop team, says filmmaker

“Last [October] during the pandemic, we started meeting, planning out the documentary all virtually,” said Adrienne Row–Smith, the camera operator and music supervisor. 

“Realistically what it shows is the ingenuity and creativeness despite all events of the world. … I’m very proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish in a very short window of time.”

Leung explained, as women of colour, the term they chose to title the documentary holds a deeper meaning.

“[The word] limitless really represents what we’re trying to show and what we’re trying to celebrate. These women have not only done so much for themselves, but the community,” said Leung, producer and director of the film.

“They’ve opened the door for others to come through.”

Director and producer Hingman Leung, second from right, is seen working behind the scenes during the film’s shoot. (Firegrove Studio)

Leung said she’s gained a lot of inspiration interviewing the women who keep showing up at the skate park. 

“For me as a person coming into this community relatively new, it’s so heartening that this community exists — that I don’t have to feel scared to go in.” 

The documentary aired as part of CBC’s Absolutely Canadian series on Oct. 2 and you can watch it on CBC Gem.

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