DOXA 2018 review: Roller Dreams

Australia/USA

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      A shoo-in for audience favourite, Roller Dreams delivers ecstatic jolts of adrenaline while retelling the never-ending story of America’s war on the poor.

      From the late ’70s to the early ’90s, roller dancing was a phenomenon confined to a small patch of concrete on California’s predominantly African-American Venice Beach. Key people from the scene are still alive and talking; they bore witness to the familiar assault on black street culture first by Hollywood (the Linda Blair film Roller Boogie was the biggest whitewash/cash-in), then by racist law enforcement and gentrification.

      By the time of the Rodney King beating, a joyous soundtrack of ’80s R&B and electro had been replaced with gangsta rap and the crack epidemic.

      Says one participant: “How did we get from the ’70s to ‘Bitch Betta Have My Money’? You want me to dance to this shit?”

      Everyone here is fascinating (and the archival footage is killer), but all the drama and tragedy of Roller Dreams is distilled into the story of the leonine Mr. Mad, who was venerated by all. His full-blown genius on skates remains suspended between a violent childhood in Watts and a present that finds him weeping for a moment that was more than just lost: “It was taken.” 

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