With fun puns and punishing action, roller derby has maintained a place in the world of women’s sports. Unfortunately, the amateur and semi-professional teams rarely get the funds to run without sponsorship. In most cases, the leagues require players who pour passion into their performances. Minnesota Mean follows one of those teams. Featuring interviews while embedding with the team, documentarian Dawn Mikkelson shows the highs and lows a team goes through over a season.
During a playoff push, The Minnesota Mean lose players various to issues. Some become injured during the natural rhythms of the season. Others have personal issues, including pregnancy, personal issues, and even a run for political office. Mikkelson’s choice to stay within the team structure allows us to observe the women striving to earn a spot on the largest stage in the sport. Yet that battle and drive do not exist in a vacuum. Instead, they are pushed to the limit by other women looking to achieve their own dreams.
Mikkelson populates the world well. We get interviews with players, not only of the Minnesota Mean, but also the other teams. As various Roller Derby girls pop on screen, we get a very different picture of the world than the one often depicted in pop culture. While other visions of Roller Derby have tried to dress up the athletes in “sexy” clothes, Minnesota Mean focuses on the intense athleticism on display. The injuries are gnarly, the hits and physical exertion spectacular. It’s a very fun road into a world we rarely get to see.
On the whole, Minnesota Mean gives us a slice of life in a world that deserves more attention. Mikkelson’s film delivers on the fun it promises. With so few films focused on worlds quite like Roller Derby, this stands out amongst the sports documentary landscape.