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Published on October 24th, 2011 | by King James


Movie Review: “GV13 – Roller Gurl”

Editor’s Note: When we got a request from the filmmaker to review this film, we had 3 of our writers take a look at it, from 3 segments of the global derby community. First up, a North American derby opinion on the project!

GV13 – Roller Gurls is a documentary about Roller Derby, but not really. It’s more like an hour of film where people who happen to be involved in roller derby sort of talk about it via small talk. It’s the sort of depth you might get from a conversation with a casual acquaintance on an elevator. From the moment the film starts until it’s conclusion there is no hint of purpose or direction from the film makers. The film is more of an hour long series of sound bytes from people involved in modern roller derby, seemingly randomly edited together. By the time the film was over I felt like I had learned little about the people involved or about the sport.

Maybe that’s a little harsh. I’ve seen a lot of roller derby documentaries, and our league has been the subject of a rather good one made by a skater and film student. While there is some very loose structure here, the quotes often deviate from the listed subject during each segment, making the whole movie hard to follow. People are often shown giving a short quote while their name is listed at the bottom of the frame, only to have another sound byte ten minutes later where they state their name – and this happens multiple times throughout the film, giving the feeling that we are being introduced to the same people over and over. One of the most cohesive portions of the film was a two minute long series of clips shot at dutch angles and at a fast film speed of the roller derby track being laid down. Unfortunately, laying the track down is one of the most boring things to do in roller derby and it holds true in this documentary.

Besides being poorly organized, the film is difficult to watch. Almost the entire documentary is framed by what appears to be PowerPoint style graphics that often obscure the person talking to the point where they are unrecognizable. Sound effects accompany any actions shots with football impact sounds occurring every time someone is hit by another player or the ground. And in one of the more surreal portions of the film one of the skaters is being questioned about if she liked the trailer for the film we’re watching right now. Think about that for a second.

So what was good about the film? Well, the girls involved seem to really love roller derby. (The creators of the film are another story.) The participants all seem genuine and willing to talk about it, but no purpose is given to their dialogue. While we never hear any narration or voice over, I’m convinced the girls were simply asked a series of similar generic questions and they were edited together in a rather slap-dash manner to create an hours worth of film. Furthermore, for a documentary of this type you generally want to make your subjects compelling, interesting, and entertaining. On the contrary, here they appear unprepared, nervous, or not terribly interested in participating.

If you are familiar with roller derby it is unlikely you will get anything from this documentary. It barely scratches the surface of how the game is played and you don’t really get to know anyone beyond the idle chit-chat dialogue. I suppose if you had no idea that modern roller derby was being played, then this documentary would at least inform you it exists, but I think you would have a hard time learning anything about it.

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