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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."