Filmmaker Crystal Moselle Meets Her Subjects On the Street

On this day in 2017, Our Dream of Water premiered on National Geographic. This 3-part documentary centered around women from Haiti, Peru, and Kenya, offering a unique and illuminating look into the ways in which the water crisis impacts these women’s lives. Our Dream of Water was directed by the incomparable Crystal Moselle. 

Crystal Moselle is an American filmmaker, known best for her documentary The Wolfpack. The Wolfpack originated in New York City, where Crystal was living at the time. Walking on the street, Crystal came across a group of six brothers who looked unusual enough to spark her interest. She approached them, and they talked about their shared love of movies, among other things. After a year of spending time with them and filming them, Crystal learned that they had spent over fifteen years of their lives stuck in a small apartment together, due to their father’s fears of the outside world. 

In the documentary that resulted from these experiences, Crystal focuses not on the brothers’ tragic past, but on the joys of becoming a part of the world after so many years of isolation. In a review of The Wolfpack, FF2 Editor-in-Chief Jan Lisa Huttner says, “Viewers might want Moselle to reach for better answers regarding the past, but instead she shifts the film’s theme to hope and the future, showing Susanne Angulo and her seven children embracing life, fresh air and the freedom they had always longed for.” The Wolfpack, Crystal’s debut feature film, premiered at Sundance in 2015, winning the Documentary Grand Jury Prize. 

A year after The Wolfpack premiered, Crystal was approached by Miu Miu to direct a short for their series, entitled “Women’s Tales”, in which they recruited female filmmakers to direct whatever they wanted for a short, as long as it featured Miu Miu clothing. Crystal’s short, called That One Day, features a group of teenage female skateboarders who she had met on the subway, following one of them in particular as she meets and spends time with the other skaters. 

Crystal’s next feature film, Skate Kitchen (2018), is based on That One Day, and is similarly inspired by the group of female skaters she spent time with, who call themselves “Skate Kitchen.” Though the film is fictionalized, rather than hiring actors to play these girls, Crystal decided to have the real girls act in it themselves. This required eight months of acting classes for the girls, but resulted in uniquely authentic performances. The film tells the story of Camille, both played by and based on Rachelle Vinberg, who befriends an all-female group of skateboarders in New York City. 

In an interview with FF2 contributor Pamela Powell about Skate Kitchen, Crystal describes the style of her film: “The film has so much motion… I wanted it to feel like it had this language that you’re always floating and moving because that’s how the girls are.” She goes on, “I didn’t want it to feel like it was set up at all. I wanted it to always feel like you just so happened to capture this moment.”

In 2020, Crystal was recruited to create Betty, a television series based off of Skate Kitchen. Featuring many of the same girls from Skate Kitchen, the series is a more expansive exploration of this group of young women’s lives as they navigate the historically male-dominated world of skateboarding. Rather than focusing on one member of Skate Kitchen (Rachelle), Betty zooms out and explores the inner lives of many of the girls, and also explores the larger social dynamics at play. 

Looking at Crystal’s CV, one might notice a pattern: she goes out and meets people, gets to know them, and then captures their stories. Though all filmmakers draw inspiration from the world around them, Crystal has a unique ability to spot fascinating subjects and portray them beautifully, using everyday people and their stories as both the inspiration and the art in her films. 

© Julia Lasker (3/22/23) FF2 Media


Read Pamela Powell’s interview with Crystal Moselle here. 

Read Jan Lisa Huttner’s review of The Wolfpack here.

Read Dayna Hagewood’s review of Skate Kitchen here.

Read Isabella Marie Garcia’s review of Betty here.


Featured photo:

Bottom photo: Courtesy of HBO (with permission for use by FF2 Media). Kudos to photographer Stephanie Mei-Ling.

Tags: Betty, Crystal Moselle, documentary filmmaker, Miu Miu, National Geographic, Our Dream of Water, Skate Kitchen, That One Day, The Wolfpack

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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