It can take a long time to make a skate video, especially as we grow older and life becomes more hectic it can become a big challenge to do something that once was simply a thing you did without giving it a second thought. Solo Tango taps into what the values are behind making a video and what it can mean to go to places and work together with people to create a project together. These important messages are a big part of our Place Presents today and an even bigger part of why we talked to its maker Robert Mentov. Trust us, you should read this before you press play to get maximum enjoyment out of it.
Intro & Text Roland Hoogwater.
Video by Robert Mentov.
When I call up Robert Mentov he is in Giorgia already working on the next video after this. I instantly feel the urge to ask more but before I can he starts telling me all about Solo Tango.
“We are a crew from Toronto, Canada, and we chose to change our crew name to Solo Tango. Solo Tango isn’t quite a brand, it is more like an initiative, and under that name, we plan to make a few videos a year. The idea behind those videos would be to go to different places, skate with the locals, and make videos with them.”
I instantly ask him what his background is, because it is my theory that a lot of the more interesting people in skating come from social work backgrounds. Instead, Robert explains that his day job is working as a documentary filmmaker.
“I bring my board out to all these random countries where I will be working on a doc. I go to the skatepark, meet people and I will often meet people with their ears to the streets, those people often help me with my work. They become fixers, guides, and friends, they help us not get into trouble. It has just been a good way to build genuine connections because skateboarding has an almost religious quality to it, you bond quickly.” This path showed itself again during the making of this video. “I was out in Mexico shooting photos and it was through my connections in that scene that I got the idea to shoot a part of our video in Mexico.” It might seem foreign to many non-skater but most of us have stories similar to this one.
“I really see skateboarding as a tool for social change…”
Still, I am left to wonder about the name Solo Tango because Robert first popped up with the video Radio Sessions but he explains that this was just a way to differentiate what he is trying to do with his work. He went from classic video making to including this social edge, inviting people from other skate scenes to be partners in his videos. “People kept asking us, who are you guys, so the necessity for a name just came up.” Still, he explains, that he isn’t currently looking to make videos with the scene in L.A. or Barcelona. “We are interested in more obscure places with rough spots, less skated, that is what always attracted us. That is what attracted us to Giorgia, it became apparent that as the war started, a lot of people started to move to cities like Tbilisi, and this has caused a change in the skate scene and it is that effect what we are interested in.”
During our conversation, it became clear to me that even though this is a video geared toward skaters, an equally important part is the social aspect and how a skateboard can influence girls to take up space in male-dominated societies, Robert mentions that on his travels to places like India, he has seen the effect the board can have. “I really see skateboarding as a tool for social change…” he tells me. His statement gives me flashbacks of what Drop In did with their skate projects and how it resulted in our “MOBINA & MELIKA” video.
“This first Solo Tango project built a flame. I was stoked to see certain people in my own city get fired up and come out at night to film. Like, they put the kids to bed and came out to film…”
Another thing that keeps coming up during our conversation is how skateboarding takes up different roles for people as they grow older. Starting in your teens, the focus is on getting better and trying to take it where you can. whereas Robert explains now in his thirties, the group aspect is something that he took for granted before but has now become really important to him and the crew. “People have families and this first Solo Tango project built a flame. I was stoked to see certain people in my own city get fired up and come out at night to film. Like, they put the kids to bed and came out to film, that was a big motivation. We are happy to be out there together and share camaraderie through Solo Tango.” And it isn’t just Robert who has an interest in documentary-making people like Nikolai Kaigorodtcev who made a Super 8 video showing his experiences in Mexico from a very personal perspective.
In the end, I am left wondering if Robert’s work as a documentary filmmaker influences his private projects like Solo Tango or if it is the other way around. He quickly answers: “Me being a skater and a skateboard filmer has more influence on my work as a filmmaker than the other way around. If the work is a bit rough around the edges and we need to adapt quickly, I don’t get stressed, I have been told that I keep a very calm head on film sets, even if it doesn’t go to plan. When you film skating, you manage to work with very little and make a lot out of it. Still, the other way around has had an influence as well, my scope of shots to use has been widened. I tend to have a cinematic eye next to my skate eye. I still want to keep that rougher vibe that filming with the VX1000 brings so there is a balance to it.”
I ended up after my conversation feeling like a lot of good things are still happening in skating. It felt inspiring to listen to how much the Solo Tango crew has thought about what they are doing by making these videos, instead of just making videos. It touches on a lot of things you might not think to be relevant until you get to a certain time in your life. It reinforced the idea that the thing we love has merit at multiple times in our lives and as skateboarding grows older we can grow old with it, giving back pieces that we feel are important to foster in challenging times.
Press play to watch Rob’s previous video SURFACE MEMORIES.