Bringing a sports story to life, especially those focused on women, has rarely been easy. Sadly, most women’s sports never feature the record keeping of men’s sports. In the case of The Herricanes, the process seemed even more difficult than normal. Yet director Olivia Kuan connected with the material more than the regular documentarian. For Kuan, the story is personal.

The Herricanes focuses on the story of the Houston Herricanes. Kuan’s mother played on the team and helped build the team throughout the decade. To tell the complete story, Kuan assembles as many team members as possible to tell the story. Through talking head interviews, the players, coaches, and managers tell the story of the league.

Kuan makes the most out of limited archival footage, expanding the story to address the other National Women’s Football League teams. The NWFL featured more than fourteen teams at its peak, including The Houston Herricanes, the Oklahoma City Dolls, and the Los Angeles Dandelions. The footage shows fully padded athletes, not the scantily clad women from the future “Lingerie Football League.”

Kuan uses the other professional football leagues as a juxtaposition to the NWFL. Each league provides its power and agency for its players, but few have been able to maintain momentum beyond a few years. Even the NWFL featured teams that barely made it through five seasons.

Kuan rightly identifies the power The Herricanes can create by simply building opportunities for women to try out football. As Jennifer Welter, one of the first female coaches in the NFL, explains, “it is not that women do not like football. They’ve never had the opportunity to play it.” Another coach, Collette Smith, reiterates this claim. Her own life might have ended without football to push her. Finally, women worldwide are getting these opportunities; it’s only in the US that rampant sexism holds women back.

The Herricanes allows Kuan to build a crowd-pleasing documentary of note. It should quickly join A League of Their Own or Love and Basketball as influential films bringing the stories of professional women’s sports to life. The passion from Kuan’s direction and attention to detail shines through and opens the door for future filmmakers to continue telling this essential story.

Alan’s Rating: 7/10

What did you think of The Herricanes? Let us know in the comments below! Catch The Herricanes at SXSW 2023.

Leave a Reply