Austinite Bradley Beesley was totally a rock star stepping out of a black lincoln and walking the red carpet into the Paramount theater while groupies wooped and hollared at him. He arrived on time for the world premiere of his latest documentary "Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo" where it was well-received.
With such a powerful story, I knew this documentary would be great. It follows the story of several prison inmates at high security facilities in Oklahoma, switching back and forth from a male prison to the female prison Eddie Warrior. The majority of woman in the prison are being charged with drugs. That majority also have children. Every year these prisons participate in one of the last prison rodeos in the world in which inmates try out to be involved in bronco racing, bull-riding and bull-poker. The documentary provides a glimpse into how much this rodeo helps the inmates. As Jamie Brooks stated, "It was the first time I felt free." The inmates look forward to this event all year. They attempt in acting good in prison so as not to mess up their chances of being on the team.
The cinematography in the film is very captivating. One of the male prison inmates, Danny, is interviewed in his cell with moving around the bars to capture his face. It emphasizes the division of prisoner and visitor. A distinct difference when talking to Danny, who is charged with murdering a victim by stabbing them to death seven times. Although his murder sounds gruesome, the documentary highlights his social personality. Somehow, I was able to gravitate toward him and feel sorry for the length of time he has spent in jail, thirteen years without parole. This leads to a question I have about the filmmaker's choice to enlighten the prisoners. What about the victims families? I know it's horrible that these prisoner mothers are being separated from their children and spending time in an unfortunate place, but they eventually escape that life. Their victims are gone and can't experience life ever again. I wondered about the other side, the other side of the prisoners stories. Because those are probably very heartfelt, too.
I'm a vegetarian and have a huge heart for animals so, watching scenes of inmates working in a meat packing plant or others scraping their spurs on the side of the bronco they're riding was very hard to watch. It took my heart away from the inmates featured.
By presenting the stories of the mother inmates, it puts forth the bigger issue of lack of programs to help inmates who are being held on drug charges. In my opinion, it's wasteful spending to throw people in jail for petty non-violent drug transactions. They need help, not discipline. They need guidance to find a way to make a living without depending on drug-selling. One inmates talks about how she thinks how hard it is to work because the eight hours she works in one day she can make in a couple of minutes selling $100 of meth or some other drug. It's an issue that is important and was great to see mentioned in the documentary.
If you have a chance, check it out. This film is a unique story in presenting an overlooked issue among woman prison inmates.
Check out the Q&A I filmed and edited in three different parts (click HQ at the bottom of the video to watch in high quality):