Doc/Fest: Derby Crazy Love

Roller derby is a mysterious sub-cultural sport that exists on the peripheries of pop culture; Drew Barrymore visited it in her directorial debut Whip It but, other than that, it remains a fairly enigmatic subject (especially to the average Brit). Derby Crazy Love charts the fortunes of Montreal’s leading roller derby team as they prepare to face the London Rollergirls, but, more generally, looks at why roller derby has undergone a huge increase in popularity in recent years.

The film, it should be said, is a lot of fun, and all the subjects in the film come across well. The protagonist, if there is one is, Smack Daddy, facing a battle to rehabilitate from a broken leg in time for the match. But all of the subjects – and, crucially, subjects from other and rival teams, such as Suzy Hotrod and Raw Heidi – come across well. They are likeable and compete out of a love of the sport and for the other things that the movement entails: feminism, counterculture, independence…etc.

The problem with Derby Crazy Love is a tricky one, because it’s not the filmmakers’ fault. The best sports documentaries (ones that follow a specific team, rather than ones like The Armstrong Lie or Senna which deal with their subject retrospectively) like Undefeated and Hoop Dreams, have that ‘magic moment’ where you can’t believe the filmmakers just managed to capture it. That doesn’t happen with Derby Crazy Love. The preparations and match unfold in an unexceptional way, the personal journeys transpire roughly as expected, and, as a result, the film feels somewhat superficial, and rather more like a précis of the roller derby ethos than an engaging documentary.

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Title: Derby Crazy Love
Directors: Justine Pimlott and Maya Gallus
Running time: Nice and trim

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