Thursday, March 26, 2009

Okie Noodling

I really enjoyed the screening Tuesday night of Bradley Beesley's documentary Okie Noodling. Beesley's film, which came out in 2001, is about the interesting sport of noodling, or catching cat fish using nothing but your hands. The sport is only legal in four states, one of them being Oklahoma where the documentary is focused. The most interesting part of this film is most definitely the topic of noodling. At first I thought it sounded boring however I found myself completely captivated by the hunt these men were on and the freakishly huge fish they were catching - some of them literally weighing half as much as I do!

Okie Noodling was laid out in chronological order, telling the history of noodling, introducing us to some of the small town Oklahomans who still noodle, and then unfolding the story of the noodling tournament. The film had engaging characters, mainly because noodling is a family sport. There was a lot of focus on the relationships between the characters, such as the family where nearly every male noodled or the uncle and his nephew. The fact that there was more to noodling than catching fish with your bare hands (the bonding it creates between family members) made the story all the more interesting and the characters more lovable. It was very easy to like these characters because of their passion for the sport of noodling as well as the relationships they had with one another.

I did find the characters slightly stereotypical however. Everyone seemed like small town bumpkins, making it less surprising that they are the type of people to go catching fish with their hands. The film was dominated by men, showing no female noodlers and only the wives of the noodlers, portraying them as worried and concerned for their crazy husbands. The film definitely also captures what we think of when we think "small town" and "Oklahoma" in the same sentence. There are many eccentric characters which seemingly emphasize the small town feel this film gives off.

I really enjoyed this film, despite thinking the whole concept of noodling is a little weird. The weirdness is what makes this such an interesting and engaging film and the characters are what make it likable and less of a crazy concept and more of a sport. If you missed this screening definitely try to see this on your own time! This movie was great!

1 comment:

  1. I too enjoyed the film, but I saw it in a little different light, experiencing a much greater appreciation for these "small town bupmkins."

    Yes, the characters seem to be very sterotypical, but this is the first time I have ever seen Okie Noodling so I would not have been able to tell you what sort of people were actually Noodlers. It was only until we saw the sport and the people, that we say they are stereotypical. It seems like such a rough and unpretty sport and hobby that it feeds our stereotypical thoughts of those people, expecially from Oklahoma. In all actuality, they are not stereotypical at all. This seems to be a grunge a sport. You have to get completely firty, sticking your hands in mud and God knows where, that the only people that can do this, are those that do not mind! Typically, those would be those that seem "bumpkin." As one of the noodlers said (The expert noodler), he works as a Janitor as well because he loves getting dirty.

    The film really furthered my appreciation for these people, and made me not see them in the "bumpkin" light. Okie Noodling is a sport I will never want to attempt, but having watched others do it, I have a great amount of respect for those who can. The time and dedication those have to the sport is fantastic. They do it because they truly love it. It is a sport that they love whereas football is a sport I love. The film really did help to break the stereotype of these type of people in my opinion.

    There was one comment that one of the characters said in the film which I found very fascinating. He said, Catfish are considered the bottom dwellers, the most unimporant fish in the pond. Therefore they get labeled as the bottom. Those who fish for bass are cream of the crop and have there contests, advertisements, and money. However, Okie noodlers have absolutely nothing.

    This has led to the steteotypes that we have harbored, because it is so very true. The story of these type of people has never been told, and I think the film did an excellent job at telling that story. While some may see it as just a disgusting, interesting film, in my opinion, it did wonders with helping those we have labeled as stereotypical Oklahomans. After seeing the devotion these men have, I tip my hat off to them.