Weekend Watch: “Roller Girls Beirut” – The Short Documentary About Women Coming Together to Shake Gender Norms in Sports

Check out the uplifting, true story of a group of badass chicks in Beirut starting Lebanon’s first ever Roller Derby team!

documentary
Image: René Odgaard

“Roller derby is a contact sport for women played on roller skates; it’s fun and great exercise! Come join a practice and help start our brand new team! We have skates and protection gear for you to borrow!”

…That’s from the flyer that Danish Roller Derby chick Elisabeth sent around Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, hoping to catch the attention of sporty chicks who were interested in a new athletic experience. Director René Odgaard tells us this about the lead-up to making this documentary:

“I met our central character, Elisabeth, at the Roller Derby World Games in Dallas while I was making a film about the Danish national team. Elisabeth told me that she was heading to Beirut for six months to help kickstart Lebanon’s first ever Roller Derby team. That really grabbed my attention, and I knew it would make for a great documentary. So, I gave Elisabeth a camera to take with her so she could record a visual diary and after a few months, I joined her in Beirut to do some filming.”

We’re so glad he did, because even though the documentary is only a little over 23 minutes in length, its uplifting energy will stay with you long after. “It’s impossible to be grumpy or sad when you’ve got wheels under your feet – and that’s what Elisabeth found in Roller Derby,” René continues. “In the sport, Elisabeth finally found a space she’d been looking for her whole life – where she could fully be the tomboy she truly is. A space where it’s okay to be aggressive, to sweat, to fall and get scraped up… And where folks realize they’re capable of so much more than they might have realized.”

This freedom and strength is precisely what Elisabeth was determined to share with other women, and that’s why she made her way to Beirut. The new team certainly had a number of obstacles to overcome, however – chief among them being the fact that women don’t typically participate in sports, and certainly not contact sports on rollerskates. Even with the pressure of social norms, the Beirut Roller Derby chicks don’t let things get in their way, and their story is an inspiration to all of us! Check it out below:

We’re also super happy to let you know that this documentary has been getting lots of (well-deserved!) love, and that its message continues to make its way through a number of countries. It won the ARFF Berlin International Awards for Best Short Documentary, and has been featured at a number of different festivals all around the world, such as Marbella International Film Festival, Madrid Film Awards, Liverpool Film Festival, Film In Focus (Bucharest), and the Latitude Film Awards (London).

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