Rolling Through “Hell On Wheels”

Toronto is still spun by Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut even though T.I.F.F. and Barrymore have long since left us in their dust.  Her charming movie Whip It, about an all-girls roller-derby team, has now opened nationally. For those of you who want to know more gory details about roller-derby than a fictional film can provide, check out the documentary Hell On Wheels. It slams some real insight into the sport, its fierce participants, and its grassroots re-birth in Austin, Texas in 2001.

The film goes behind the sex, violence and spectacle that is modern roller-derby to witness the politics and drive of a collection of women determined to make a success of their business and shared passion. Some very interesting and unexpected conflicts arise outside of the roller rink that made me think about the nature of all-women endeavours – especially those that push boudaries. The action-packed scenes are heart-thumping, but the film’s characters are what drive this film. Director Bob Ray made the right choice to follow the Texas league over the span of a couple of years which allows us to understand the faith that was required for these women to revive the sport. Soundtrack by “And You Shall Know Us By the Trail of the Dead” suits the bitchy attitude of the characters to a T.

This film is free to Canadian and American residents for online viewing at


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