After examining barehanded fishermen ("Okie Noodling") and alt-rock icons ("The Fearless Freaks"), Oklahoma-based documaker Bradley Beesley shifts his gaze to an event billed as "the only behind-the-walls rodeo in the world" for his latest effort.
After examining barehanded fishermen (“Okie Noodling”) and alt-rock icons (“The Fearless Freaks”), Oklahoma-based documaker Bradley Beesley shifts his gaze to an event billed as “the only behind-the-walls rodeo in the world” for his latest effort. “Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo” is a fascinating group portrait of female convicts who are relative newcomers — but determined competitors — in a decades-old statewide event previously restricted to male inmates in the Oklahoma prison system. At once clear-eyed and compassionate, the pic could reach beyond traditional doc venues to attract moviegoers (and rodeo fans) usually lukewarm to nonfiction fare.
Although Beesley includes several scenes highlighting a male prison rodeo vet — a convicted murder who makes no excuses for himself even as he seeks parole — the pic focuses primarily on the feisty femme competitors held in the Eddie Warrior Women’s Correctional Center in Taft, Okla. Chief attention-grabbers are Jamie Brooks, who sabotages her chances by receiving contraband, and Brandy “Foxie” Witte, a bronc rider who hires a private detective to contact long-estranged relatives. Rodeo sequences are impressively shot, but the most compelling drama unfolds outside the arena. Jason Quever’s twangy score is a plus.