News / Arts & Entertainment

Q&A with Kaspar Schröder: ‘My Playground’

Ray Kouguell

It’s called parkour, or free running; participants run, jump, swing and tumble over just about any object or piece of architecture in their path. Originating in France during the 1980s, it’s grown in popularity since then.

A film called My Playground is about a Danish parkour team from Copenhagen who demonstrate how a city landscape can be transformed beyond its physical boundaries. Team JiYo is made up of several young men and one woman who have no fear of rooftops, dangerous ledges, and all kinds of everyday obstacles on sidewalks at eye level like staircases, walls, and lamp posts.

But what makes this movie more than just an amazing visual treat of physicality is a discussion of how architecture uses its own space to make it happen. Through interviews with architects, city planners, politicians and a philosopher, My Playground explores the dynamics of a city with a life and energy one does not ordinarily consider.

The film follows Team JiYo around the world, including stops in the United States, Britain, Japan and China. My Playground director Kaspar Schröder is along for far more than the ride. He’s also the writer, cinematographer and editor, producing a kind of kaleidoscopic journey. Schröder, based in Copenhagen, told VOA how this athletic movement of twists and turns, born in Europe, took off in Asia, and how he put together this incredible piece of work.

Q&A with Kaspar Schröder: ‘My Playground’
Q&A with Kaspar Schröder: ‘My Playground’i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

SCHRODER: I only had one camera and I just had them repeat it again and again and again. And the first scene was pretty hard on them because, I think, there were like six angles so they did it six times down the whole building on all those levels, terraces. So at the end of like the sixth take they were like, “That’s it! We can’t do anymore.” So they always set the limit themselves and so I pushed them to do as  much as I could and then they said stop.

KOUGUELL: Were you hanging upside down or you know some of those things?

SCHRODER: Some of those shots, they have camera[s] mounted on them and I made a special rig that they could have around their stomach and then the camera was out, the tripod hanging out from them and then they could shoot from their own body. So the camera would follow their movement. Other than that, I was climbing up different stairs and different roofs and doing some parkour myself to shoot.

KOUGUELL: How long has free running or parkour been going on in Denmark?

SCHRODER: Since 2005, and that’s around where it started. I did a short film about another group and then I got to know about this group. They were kind of like the pioneers in Denmark.

KOUGUELL: What took you and Team JiYo to Tokyo and Shenzhen, China?

SCHRODER: I got an invitation to participate in the Shenzhen Biennale. It suddenly came about that we should shoot something; come a bit earlier, shoot something in the local area with the local free runners. And then include it in the film. So we were there like two weeks prior to the exhibition’s start.

KOUGUELL: How popular is free running in Japan and China?

SCHRODER: It’s very popular, but it’s really like getting more and more focus and attention and there is a problem in Japan that it is difficult to do it because of all the security and all this “privately owned” old buildings. Everything is private so they can only do it in parks and on limited space.

And that’s a problem for those teams. But in China, it’s a bit more loose and people do it anyway more without asking but in Japan it’s more formal and everyone needs to ask permission. But it’s slowly getting more and more popular. And more teams are emerging and it’s a sport definitely.

KOUGUELL: Is it getting more popular in other parts of Asia?

SCHRODER: Yes! I know in Thailand it’s quite popular as well. I think it’s very much influenced by YouTube because there’s no competition, there’s no real club. Everyone is using YouTube to learn new tricks, or to like publish their own ideas or get famous.

KOUGUELL: A Chinese female runner that you interviewed in your film said free running made her more outgoing and changed her personality in a positive way. Is that felt by others who do this elsewhere?

SCHRODER: Yeah definitely. It’s a community and people are really coming together around this sport. It’s really much a change of lifestyle. It’s a change of perception, of how you look at buildings and things around you. So it definitely has a very positive impact on people that participate in it and discover it. And that girl especially, she came from a circus background. She was at a circus school in northern China where everything was very restricted and rules and practice, practice, practice. And then she turned to this complete opposite where it’s all about freedom of movement and do whatever you like, when you like, and how you like it. 

KOUGUELL: Is there any one main trait or attitude free runners have in common among the Western and Asian participants?

SCHRODER: I think that it’s all about freedom of movement. They don’t see it as a sport, like it’s a competition. The only competitor you have is yourself. I think it’s all about being creative with your movement and the things around you.

My Playground is definitive proof that while you may have to be young to participate, you can watch on the sidelines with this movie to appreciate a completely different way of looking at the panorama of city life. With Schröder’s keen eye, colors and angles are more brilliant. Startling shapes of buildings old and new are no longer just stationary structures. As one member of Team JiYo explains, he developed a bad habit of exploring possibilities in everything. That’s a universal piece of wisdom we all can share. 

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”