If I were to postulate a shared desire held by all humans, it’s a desire to “belong”—to feel like a part of something bigger. Perhaps this is why COVID has proven to be so unbearable for so many during the past year and a half: we all yearn to connect, and so, it’s devastating when we are denied such an innately human want. I realize that’s not some bold or hot take, but I think it greatly informs what we do and why we do it—from religion to sports fandom to watching movies in dark rooms with strangers.
I realize that’s a somewhat long-winded intro to Round and Round, a slice of life documentary profile of a Chicago based flat roller derby team from directorial duo Simeon Pratt and Talia Pasqua, but it perfectly encapsulates why this film “works.” On a macro level, I’ll admit, there’s no larger hook here. It’s not a traditional inspirational sports doc (there is no “big game” moment at the end nor are there an affluence of soundbite platitudes about working hard and not giving up), but it is very much an intimate depiction of the special bond of friendship and community that formulates around sport: about the joy of finding “your people,” either through athletics or simply shared interest.
Perhaps it’s because of my mental state as I deal with the remaining fears and anxieties brought forth by COVID, but it’s something I found incredibly moving. Round and Round does what a great short documentary should do: it brings us into a hyper-specific (and potentially foreign) world and somehow makes us feel like we belong. We become a part of the group, understanding what drives the individual, and then, witnessing how they come together as a whole.
The film’s technical craft is also strong. I like that it doesn’t feel overly reliant on conventional “talking heads,” opting instead to fill the majority of the film’s run-time with naturalistic “fly on the wall” b-roll. “It was very obvious to us early on that our subjects were not afraid of the camera, which allowed us to be super close with them”, the directorial duo explain as we discuss their approach to filming. “We were almost 100% run and gun, and oftentimes it was only Simeon and I running around with a camera and a boom pole…They truly trusted us, and I doubt we would have ever been able to film their honest, intimate moments without that trust.”
The imagery is also just objectively well shot: strong shot compositions and fancy looking footage. The color grade is also quite lovely and I found the music touching without ever feeling like “Musicbed” inspirational stock. It’s clear a lot of time and energy was put into the actual composition and shot movement, somehow managing to capture discovered moments in a polished and stylish way. That’s a tough balancing act: verisimilitude vs stagey-polish that Pratt and Pasqua handle with aplomb.
All in, if you’re looking to feel a sense of community in a year where we’ve largely been devoid of it, there’s no better 15 minutes you can spend on the internet today.