I’m here at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and I just watched an amazing film. “Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo” is everything documentary filmmaking is all about – taking the audience into an American sub-culture and showing real humanity. If the word “documentary” elicits feelings of being stuck in a classroom in high school while an out-of-touch teacher in a bad suit writes mind-numbing stats on a dirty chalk board, you haven’t seen “Sweethearts.” This film tells a great story. That’s what filmmaking is, no matter the genre. Director Bradley Beesley (The Fearless Freaks/Sundance Channel, The Creek Runs Red/PBS, Okie Noodling/PBS) tells the story of the Oklahoma State Prison Rodeo, the oldest prison rodeo in the country. The film starts with crazy-ass inmates getting the shit kicked out of them by really pissed bulls at the 2007 Inmate Rodeo. I’m in! Then we see what led up to that rodeo in 2007. You had me at bull horn injury. We meet one male inmate who has been in prison for 25 years. Doing rodeo for the last 13 years and loving it. Loving the one day a year he gets to train outside on the mechanical bull. Close-up shots of his face, full of regret, recounting what got him there. Yes, he is a murderer. Beesley neither glorifies these people nor looks down on them; just shows honestly how they live and who they are. This is what a documentary is supposed to be. When we see them telling their stories, we know both that they deserve to be in jail, but that reform is possible and riding pissed off animals is one way to get there. This film focuses on a group of female inmates who competed in the rodeo for the first time in 2006. This is what sets this film apart from the 1999 Angola Prison Rodeo doc. This is no remake. Hearing the female inmates tell their stories is sad, because they all have kids. One was impregnated by a guard when she was in jail at age 17. Now 30, she just wants to make parole and see her teenage boy. “Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo” is a very intense film with many hilarious moments, like the male cons being told that they are going to get “their nuts smashed” on the mechanical bull. Anything that gets you out of work detail means taking multiple shots to the stones when you’re in the slammer. I don’t want to ruin what happens at the 2007 rodeo or if anyone makes parole because I want you to see it yourself. It will make you laugh, cry and question the prison system which works hand in hand with a failed drug policy. And it’s always fun watching someone get PALM STRIKED by a mean bull with two sharp baseball bats coming out of its skull.