The best sporting documentaries are rarely about the sport itself. Pumping Iron, Hoop Dreams, Senna…all completely different subjects and yet all connected by the thing that inspires competitors and filmmakers alike. Passion. Passion to be the best in their field. Passion to drive themselves beyond what others will settle for. Passion to document and showcase something that may entice others into that sport.
Revolutions is a movie with all of the above; a lovingly put together insight into the personalities that make up the fledgling Roller Derby scene in Ireland. Flitting in and out of the lives of the competitors and coaches from it’s humble beginnings in Dublin in 2009, through to the 2014 World Cup in Texas, its an unflinching look at what drives people to follow something they are passionate about and the sacrifices they are willing to make in their personal lives to succeed.
The story centres around the rivalry between Dublin Roller Girls and Cork City Firebirds, and the fractious relationship they endure as both teams rely on each other to make up Team Ireland. There are clashes of personalities, team splits and arguments on and off the track, as those pivotal in setting up the sport find that they differ greatly on how to advance it on a national and club level.
To those familiar with documentaries on niche sports, like The King of Kong and Murderball before it, a knowledge of the inner workings of the sport isn’t essential and Revolutions is no different. The documentary works because it’s engaging on a personal level, and because of the intense rivalry that exists between these competitors. People like Rhona “Crow” Flynn, who’s fiery determination to succeed is almost all-consuming and the meeker, though no less committed, Christopher “Violent Bob” Goggins are just two examples of the wonderfully colourful characters who make up the rosters of both sets of teams.
The film suffers at times for spreading it’s focus too wide and trying to cram in too much of what goes on in the organising of training sessions, tournaments and matches. That said, director Laura McGann and her crew do an exemplary job of infiltrating both teams and wringing the maximum possible tension and excitement from the matches, thanks in no small part to having spent so much time in the company of all involved. At times the glimpses we get into the lives of those participating is almost intimate and it makes the raw emotion that bubbles over when there’s a loss that bit more deeply felt.
Revolutions is a documentary that transcends it’s quirky subject matter. At it’s core it’s an infectiously exciting tale of sporting conflict and a tug-of-war between competitive, combative personalities. Like it’s protagonists it’s flawed and not altogether polished but what it lacks in a glossy sheen it more than makes up for with passion.