Saturday, October 2, 2010

Modern Gladiators

(Bradley Beesley, 2010, US, HD, 90 mins.)

Oklahoma filmmaker Bradley Beesley has profiled the Flaming Lips and Okie noodlers (bare-handed fishermen). With Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, he turns to incarcerated bronc riders and steer ropers, men and women who risk serious injury for a few seconds of glory. He begins six weeks before 2007's event, working in the impressions of convicts and correctional officers, and captures the contestants as they try out for teams, practice, attend parole hearings, and go about their daily routine.

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His subjects include 14-year veteran Danny Liles, a 47-year-old convicted murderer,
and Brandy "Foxie" Witte, a 23-year-old convicted felon, who searches for her birth
family during the course of the documentary. To Liles, who's served 25 years, incar-
ceration represents "years and years of boredom with moments of adrenalin." Vin-
tage film clips bring 70 years of prison rodeo history to life, while an inter-title notes that Oklahoma offers one of only two left in the world. Until 2006, the event was an

all-male affair, but now welcomes women from Eddie Warrior Correctional Center
in addition to men from the Oklahoma State Penitentiary and 10 other facilities.

According to Attorney Irven Box, more women do time in Oklahoma than any other
state--which already suffers from an alarming rate of drug abuse and domestic vio-
lence. No one can predict what will happen to any of these prisoners when they get out, but it's heartening to see them work hard and to support their teammates, skills that will prove beneficial to those with a release date in their future. Beesley chose his subjects well, and it's hard not to root for their success in the ring--and beyond.


Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo plays the Northwest Film Forum 10/8-10 at 7
and 9pm. Beesley won't be present to introduce his film, but he will be in town
from 10/4-8 to serve as a juror for the NWFF's Local Sightings Festival. The NW-
FF is located at 1515 12th Ave between Pike and Pine. For more information,
please click here or call 206-829-7863. Images from

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