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Perfect Pairing

Filmmaker Bob Ray and The Oly Rollers are a match made in roller derby heaven

Bad Girl, Good Woman league founders (2000), from left: Nancy Haggerty, Anya Jack, April Hermann and Heather Burdick. Photo by

The Oly Rollers are badasses. There's no doubt about it. You don't become a national champion roller derby team without having a little badass up your sleeve.

Filmmaker Bob Ray, from Austin, Texas, is also kind of a badass. Ray, though, just happens to be the kind of badass that gets his kicks from bringing tattooed humanity to the screen, and capturing history forever. His recent documentary, Hell on Wheels - the story how a group of passionate and driven woman in Austin, way back in 2000, created what's now the worldwide roller derby resurgence - is just such a feat. The woman captured in Ray's film, members of "The Lonestar Rollergirls" and "Texas Rollergirls" - most of them also members of Austin's famous music and arts scene - triumphed through grit, hard work and perseverance. All of this is brought to life by Ray and his filmmaking partner Werner Campbell - making for cinema that's just as captivating as watching tattooed woman in skirts pummel the crap out of each other.

In many ways, Bob Ray and The Oly Rollers were meant for each other - which makes Friday's screening of Hell on Wheels at the Capitol Theater a perfect pairing. Not only will The Oly Rollers be on hand for the event, but so will Ray - answering questions about the film directly after its showing.

It's a guaranteed double helping of badass. Trust me.

Or trust Ray ...

"I had the opportunity to screen (Hell on Wheels) with the Oly Rollers, who are badasses on the track right now. It was a great opportunity and looked like fun," says Ray of his trip to Olympia in promotion of the film. Ray will also appear in Seattle with the Rat City Rollers on his swing through the Northwest - which he considers one of the strongest roller derby regions in the country at the moment. While the roller derby resurgence started in Austin, catapulted by the woman captured in Ray's film, there are now over 450 leagues nationwide. Ray attributes roller derby's success in the Northwest to the same things that originally made it viable in Austin, a strong music, arts and counterculture community.

"It make perfect sense," says Ray. "The Northwest is a fertile breeding ground." From what he's witnessed, at least in Austin, Ray says most of the woman involved in roller derby - a number that's continually growing - come to the sport for similar reasons. Many are former athletes, but just as many either just plain hate other (girly) woman, or are looking for a place to be tough, physical, and develop an alter ego where they're expected to be aggressive. Roller derby presents a place for women that fall through the cracks, he says.

It's a winning recipe - just like the film, which matches equal parts real life struggle with roller derby action.

"It's not really about roller derby," says Ray of Hell on Wheels. "It's more about a group of passionate, committed people fighting tooth and nail to create something."

Hell on Wheels screening with Bob Ray and The Oly Rollers

Friday, May 7, demonstration outside at 8:30 p.m., film at 9 p.m.
Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave., Olympia, 360.754.6670

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angie said on May. 06, 2010 at 7:49pm

Matt, I can't believe you met the man, you spoke to him, you wrote the article, and you didn't convince him to come to Tacoma to show his movie? We have The Grand. We have the Blue Mouse. We have Dockyard Derby Dames. Tacoma is Gritty fergoodnesssake!

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