SWEETHEARTS OF PRISON RODEO Review
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo starts with Danny, a tattooed and bespectacled convict describing his passion for rodeo. If you ever saw him on the street, you wouldn't be able to tell that the man is serving a 30-year sentence for murder. Personable and articulate, Danny sees rodeo as a perfect metaphor for freedom: "Being out there is to touch something that I gave up when I was sentenced." He laments. This is why they risk their lives being gored by bulls and thrown off broncos.
The film belongs to a female prison rodeo team though. They all have been struggling through broken homes, drug abuse, abandonment issues and separation from their children. As we get to know Rhonda, Jamie, Crystal and Foxie, same picture emerges from them: they have paid more than enough for the crimes they committed when they were young and stupid. They have wised up and all of them deserve a second chance.
As the team prepares for 2007 Rodeo, there are heartbreaks- a broken collar bone, contraband use (lipstick, they suspect) and subsequent suspension from the team, emotional family reunion and parole hearings. But all of them seem very happy when they are practicing on their jerry-rigged bull.
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo succeeds in putting human faces on the statistics and shedding light on the broken justice system where they insist on locking people up rather than investing on treatment and support. And there is plenty of death defying action by spirited beautiful women too. Definitely one of the best documentaries I've seen in recent years.
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo premiered at SXSW in 2009, is being distributed by Cinema Purgatorio and currently on Western Swing Tour, making its US theatrical debut at IFC Center, NYC on Sept. 17th. DVD Release is scheduled to be released on Oct. 25th by Carnivalesque Films. For Tour dates and location, please visit Cinema Purgatorio website