Leo Valls Soleil Levant DVD release interview.

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Leo Valls Soleil Levant DVD release interview.

Portrait by Ben Gore. Skate photos by Jean Feil.

I heard you were travelling quite a bit for the “Soleil Levant” premieres, how was that? Where did you go?

We all went to the UK on a two-week trip for the World premieres of the video. We went to London, Bristol and Manchester. A week after that we went back to Japan for ten days to premiere the video in Tokyo, Osaka and Fukushima, then back to France for Paris and Bordeaux; all of this in about a month. It’s been a lot of travelling and we met some great people.

Vivien, Soy, Jimmy and Zach were recently in Boston, New York and Philadephia. I couldn’t make it since I was moving out of Bordeaux back to California around the same time, but I heard the New York premiere was amazing. We flew Takahiro Morita from Japan for the event and our US distributor Josh Stewart from Theories of Atlantis organized an art show on the day of the premiere. New York has always been a huge influence for us, so it’s really an honour that many people came to our show and checked the video.


How was the video received?

The premieres were great. It seemed like people didn’t really know what to expect and were surprised with the outcome. I could tell some felt inspired by it and that’s what we find the most satisfying. The Tokyo premiere was especially memorable. It was in a giant theatre packed with people and our friends from OPSB (One Peace Session Band) opened the show with a great concert. Japan has always treated us so well, many thanks to all our friends over there.


Did you manage to do any skating when you were away or were you simply in and out for the premieres? If so can we expect new edits from you guys shortly after the video comes out?

Sure we managed to do a lot of skateboarding, actually. The main purpose of traveling for us is to always go meet people, skate and work on video and photo projects.  We are constantly working on new material, and trying to progress and push the company in an original and creative direction. We’re working on several edits for the near future.


The first thing that struck me about the video at the premiere was that there was a lot to take in. So many weird concepts and references were in there that it definitely requires more than one viewing to truly appreciate.
Can you give us a bit of background information about the project and tell us what it represents for you?

It is definitely very dense with information and packed with messages. The video is basically separated into 6 chapters, each having its own unique atmosphere, concept and meaning. We wanted to show people that you can find your own way of expressing yourself on a skateboard; and that it compels you to travel and see the world from a different perspective. We find it amazing that it pushes you to open up to different cultures. You can do much more than just show skateboard tricks in a skateboard film and that’s what makes producing videos interesting for us. The DVD will come with a 12-page booklet, which gives further insights on what we want to express.

I have been to Japan 7 times. Almost everyone who skates for Magenta has been there several times as well and we all had amazing experiences. A lot of Japanese skateboarders stayed with us here as well and we always had a great connection with them. Their culture and skateboarding is super inspiring. Most of them barely speak English and we had to communicate through skateboarding, which has always been fascinating for me. Soleil Levant is the outcome of this special friendship. It is a video about the connections among skateboarders from different countries and cultures.

Lampost backside footplant.

Can you explain the title? It’s a reference to Japan but does it have another more symbolic meaning?

“Soleil Levant” means “Rising sun” in French. It is indeed a reference to Japan, also known as “the land of the rising sun”. It is also regarding Magenta maturing as a company. Three years after its launch it was time to drop a full-length project that would establish the ideas behind the brand. It is also a reference to the famous Claude Monet painting (“impression, sunrise”), which gave birth to the Impressionist movement.


 Was working on this project any different from the others you’ve worked on?

It certainly was. Touring all around Japan and filming for it was a unique experience. Skating with Takahiro Morita and showing him around France opened my eyes to some of the cultural values skateboarding has. Those trips also helped me see my own culture from a different point of view.

Working with those guys to finish the video has been a long process, with tons of misunderstandings and conversations lost in translation, but it all worked out great. We went back to Japan with Soy a few months ago to work on a special video project with Morita to promote the DVD and it felt like we were on another planet. Shigeta, Morita’s assistant, was filming Soy, Koichiro and I cruising down the streets of Tokyo while Morita was piloting him with an earpiece…


What is your most memorable experience from Japan?

During the Japan premieres for Soleil Levant, we stayed only ten days. It was the rain season so it was really hot and muggy. Takahiro Morita suggested driving to Fukushima, the region that was devastated by the Tsunami and nuclear plant leak in March 11, 2011; to see the damage with our own eyes and meet the local skaters. We accepted to do it. We drove from Tokyo and met up with some friends of his who still live there. The Tsunami took more than 20,000 lives and left the whole area radioactive. When driving towards the nuclear plant, we entered what they call the “danger zone”, a whole area that has been completely evacuated. Discovering an entire ghost town where no one can live anymore because of the radiation was pretty scary. Everything was destroyed, houses torn apart, cars flipped over, toys on the ground… the only sign of life was several cows grazing near what was once a busy metro station. Seeing this in real life was frightening. It’s hard to believe how many people lost their homes, their roots, and can’t return to this place. It’s definitely something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. None of us regretted doing it. I recall thinking about how crazy it was that skateboarding brought me out there… I would never have been to this place if it wasn’t for skateboarding and meeting such passionate people from completely different backgrounds. Afterwards we went back to the city of Fukushima and met up with locals for a session and the premiere of the video. This is why the video is dedicated to all the victims of the great earthquake that hit Japan in March 2011.


Do you have anything planned for the near future? 

I just moved back to San Francisco and I plan to stay in America for a little while. I really enjoy the SF vibe and I want to keep exploring downhill skating. I have a good crew of friends that are on the same page as me here. I will also definitely be back in Japan as soon as I can…

Downhill backside noseblunt powerslide.


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