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Published on March 30th, 2012 | by Mercy Less

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Farthest Reaching Derby Documentary Premieres This Weekend

Anyone within striking distance of Atlanta, Georgia who is a fan of derby has this weekend’s hot ticket to what will be a standing room only event – the World Premiere of the long anticipated documentary film Derby, Baby! On Saturday March 31, at 4:30 pm in Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, the Atlanta Film Festival will screen the film, and host a Question and Answer panel with filmmakers Robin Bond and Dave Wruck, as well as notable derby skaters from the film. Derby News Network will carry live coverage of the Red Carpet before the screening, as well as the Question and Answer panel following the screening (stay tuned here for links to the live coverage).

Every league in existence has been approached by a documentary filmmaker at some point in their growth, whether it be a professional filmmaker, or more often, a film student, hobbyist or wanna-be filmmaker who has decided that cutting their teeth on a film about your league and roller derby will be the opus that launches them into indie film credibility and stardom. The majority of would-be derby documentary filmmakers feel that they have a fresh angle on the story of our sport, but in reality, their lens is often tired and, at this point in history, cliche. So how is the Robin Bond Media production different?

First, Robin Bond and Dave Wruck have over 40 years combined experience in the film and television industry as professionals. They each have several award-winning documentary films under their belts, and have worked in other areas of the industry, such as feature film, episodic and live television, and more, in key positions. Robin Bond Media is a real production company, and as such, was able to spend the time it really takes to get a good look at where the sport of roller derby is today. To that end, the production phase of Derby, Baby! was a solid two years, travelling the globe to capture the sport. Access matters as well. Bond and Wruck were provided entre to numerous tournaments and events including the WFTDA Big 5, the 2011 World Cup, training camps, RollerCon, league tryouts, bouts around the globe, and more.

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With classic films like Hell On Wheels (chronicling the development and subsequent epic split of the first women’s roller derby league in modern derby history) and Blood On The Flat Track (chronicling the growth and development in the early years of one of the most successful women’s flat-track roller derby leagues in existence) already enjoying widespread popularity among derby audiences and indie film fans alike, why a derby film? Why now? In the filmmakers’ own words,

“Veteran filmmaker Robin Bond was pulled into the sport of women’s flat-track roller derby by her youngest daughter who – having seen the movie Whip It – had become fascinated with the sport and its culture. Bond herself also became intrigued by women’s roller derby; as a team sport she might enjoy participating in, but not yet as the subject of a film. As Bond learned more about what was required of a derby skater, she was amazed by the legions of talented, smart and busy women who were involved in the sport, which required 12 hours or more a week of their valuable time.

The women were risking injury, and taking time away from jobs and family to play a sport that involved sorority-like requirements of community service, with no promise of compensation even at the highest level of proficiency. Didn’t these women have enough obligations already? And what was up with the provocative skate-names? Wasn’t that in direct contradiction to the credibility many of these women had worked so hard to earn in other facets of their lives?

Bond convinced her long-time filmmaking partner Dave Wruck to grab the camera and “just start shooting.” They needed to get to the bottom of what was driving these women and their love affair with this sport. They learned that much of their involvement was about identity, and about the need to be a part of something bigger than themselves and their families. There were countless stories of those skaters who had never been part of a sports team or a social club, or had never felt particularly athletic or powerful – until they discovered roller derby. As these women developed their newfound skill, they made friends and found a community that was unconditionally accepting. The sacrifices of time and safety didn’t seem to matter. (Would men go to these lengths to play a sport?)

This story needed to be told.

The film Derby, Baby! highlights the strength and energy of these women and explore what drives these smart, educated, and accomplished women. Have some of them gotten caught under the wheels of old definitions of feminism? Or are they driven simply by a need that women have to connect with other women? Why do many of them rail against the prospect of organizing as a business and getting paid for what they do? Are they truly protecting their own best interests? And are these women helping to re-define femininity, self-acceptance, and women’s sports in general?

Emmy-winning filmmakers Robin Bond and Dave Wruck (Haze) take viewers along on their quest to learn why women’s flat track roller derby is the fastest growing sport – or hobby – in the world. Derby, Baby! explores the drama, the friendships, and the addictive nature of women’s flat-track roller derby. Featuring interviews with the stars, fans, critics, promoters, and sociologists who discuss derby’s organic (and possibly short-lived) growth as a unique athletic expression of women’s empowerment, and the “tipping point” that is close at hand.”

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A brief synopsis of the film:

“Narrated by Whip It star and actress/musician Juliette Lewis, who also appears on-camera, the Derby, Baby! story spans the most turbulent and exciting time for the sport in decades, featuring interviews with promoter Jerry “The Commissioner” Seltzer, whose father Leo Seltzer invented roller derby in the 1930s; and Chuck Morris, President of AEG Live Rocky Mountains and one of the most ardent promoters of modern roller derby. The film looks at the many incarnations of the sport since its invention 77 years ago, and explores the WWF-like legacy and over-played television coverage of the past that threatens the sport’s image even today. Also featured are the new “rock stars” of roller derby, whose charisma and athleticism may be the key to pushing the sport over the “tipping point.” Super-fans, critics, sponsors, prominent sports writers, authors and sociologists weigh in on the phenomenon that is roller derby, and the sport’s organic – and possibly short-lived – growth as a unique athletic expression of women’s empowerment.”

The next public screening of the film will be at the Sonoma Film Festival, in Sonoma, California on Saturday, April 14th at 3:00pm, in the beautiful, historic Sabastiani Theatre in downtown Sonoma. To keep up on the latest news about distribution of the film, and when you can see it at a theater near you, follow Derby, Baby! on Twitter or facebook.

If you’re in Atlanta for the Premiere this weekend, don’t miss the stellar World Premiere events the filmmakers have lined up with Atlanta Rollergirls and film sponsor Riedell!

“At noon on Saturday – before the film’s screening – skaters from Atlanta and other nearby derby leagues congregate at Midtown’s Skate Escape (1086 Piedmont Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA 30309). The skaters, and quite possibly some of the cast and crew from the film, will enjoy a 1:30pm “free skate” in Piedmont Park, before heading to the Landmark Cinema to watch the film. Derby News Network – the world’s top source for all things derby- will be at the screening to catch all the hoopla, streaming live video from The Landmark to the world when the red carpet unrolls at 4PM. After the film, the party moves to Smith’s Olde Bar – a frequent haunt for the Atlanta Rollergirls. Derby, Baby! partners Riedell and JammerUp will be giving away items throughout the day, and Rodney Strong Vineyards will pour some free wine. All pre/post-screening events are free and open to the public.”

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Mercy Less

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