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Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (2009)

 |  Documentary  |  March 2009 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 38 users   Metascore: 70/100
Reviews: 1 user | 10 critic | 4 from Metacritic.com

'Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo' goes behind prison walls to follow convict cowgirls on their journey to the 2007 Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo. In 2006, female inmates were allowed to... See full summary »

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Title: Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (2009)

Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo (2009) on IMDb 7.2/10

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Danny Liles ...
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Jamie Brooks ...
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Brandy Witte ...
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'Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo' goes behind prison walls to follow convict cowgirls on their journey to the 2007 Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo. In 2006, female inmates were allowed to participate for the first time. In a state with the highest female incarceration rate in the country, these women share common experiences such as broken homes, drug abuse and alienation from their children. Since 1940, the Oklahoma State Penitentiary has held an annual 'Prison Rodeo'. Part Wild West show and part coliseum-esque spectacle, it's one of the last of its kind - a relic of the American penal system. Prisoners compete on wild-broncs and bucking bulls, risking life-long injuries. For inmates like Danny Liles, a 14-year veteran of the rodeo, the chance to battle livestock offers a brief respite from prison life. Within this strange arena the prisoners become the heroes while the public and guards applaud. Written by Sweethearts of The Prison Rodeo

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March 2009 (USA)  »

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Money the Hard Way  »

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Interesting, worthwhile, but flawed documentary
2 March 2012 | by (US) – See all my reviews

Always interesting, sometimes moving, this is a documentary about the Oklahoma Prison Rodeo, and how women prisoners were finally being allowed to take part.

It achieves a number of worthwhile things, among them introducing us to criminals so we come to see them as human beings with hopes and dreams in an age where portraying all criminals as monsters is more the rule. (Many of the women are in jail for drug related offenses that took place when they were, by their own accounts, 'young and stupid').

That said, the film also frustrated me. Among the female prisoners, Beesley focuses his story almost exclusively on young, very physically attractive white and Latina women. Less attractive, or black female inmates, while glimpsed briefly, are largely ignored This choice feels (perhaps unintentionally) sexist perhaps a bit racist as well.

Also, some darker aspects of this world are touched on, but not explored. For example, the fact that Oklahoma has almost twice the normal rate of women in prison. Or the gladiatorial aspects of the rodeo. I'm no expert on rodeos, but some of the 'sports', as in the one where a bull is set loose in a thick crowd of prisoners who try to pull a string from between it's horns in hope of winning $100 – resulting in quite a number being thrown in the air on the bull's horns – doesn't seem like anything I remember from a rodeo. It feels like something you watch to see people get hurt, not show off a skill (as in bull riding or bronco riding).

By making these choices, and not asking more questions, I was left feeling a little disappointed in the film's lack of depth, if still glad I'd seen it.


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