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On the morning that Oscar nominations were announced, Bing Liu was in bed bingeing Brooklyn Nine-Nine, sick with the flu. “That was my sick show,” he says. Despite the nomination news, he spent much of the day working on his latest project inside a Chicago jail. There wasn’t much time for celebrating.
“It was very humbling to go from finding out [about the nomination] to going into a maximum security prison,” says Liu, 30, who admits he’s most excited to attend the Oscars to see the inner workings of the iconic awards show. “I want to see what the red carpet’s like. What happens during commercial breaks? I’m very curious about how these things work.”
Shot over 12 years, Minding the Gap, which won Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, is a documentary about coming of age in the Rust Belt, but it’s also a film about the bonds formed through skateboarding and the cycle of domestic abuse. The film additionally touches on topics such as racial identity and class.
Whereas Hulu’s Minding the Gap features Liu’s own personal experience with trauma, the project he’s working on now turns the lens on others. “It’s an emotional take on the gun violence in Chicago that I think a lot of people just read about and maybe think it’s senseless,” he says, “but this story makes sense of why this gun violence is happening.”
Liu also plans to make a documentary about millennial relationships. “It’s sort of a Snapchat of how my generation defines love and intimacy,” he says. “It’s nice to stick my head into a project that’s very much about love, care and how to have healthy relationships. So much of my work has been about trauma.”
Even with his next project tackling romance rather than trauma, the common theme in all of Liu’s work thus far has been that it shines a light on the lives of young people.
“I just want to keep making the films that I feel like young people are not getting,” he says. “The 14-year-old version of myself did not have [Minding the Gap], just like many teenagers are benefiting from that film now.”
This story first appeared in a February stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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Samuel L. Jackson