Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo goes behind prison walls to follow convict cowgirls on their journey to the 2007 Oklahoma State Penitentiary Rodeo. In 2006, female inmates were allowed to participate for the first time. In a state with the highest female incarceration rate in the country, these women share common experiences such as broken homes, drug abuse and alienation from their children. Since 1940, the Oklahoma State Penitentiary has held an annual Prison Rodeo . Part Wild West show and part coliseumesque spectacle, it s one of the last of its kind - a relic of the American penal system. Prisoners compete on wild-broncs and bucking bulls, risking life-long injuries. For inmates like Danny Liles, a 14-year veteran of the rodeo, the chance to battle livestock offers a brief respite from prison life. Within this strange arena the prisoners become the heroes while the public and guards applaud.
Mr. Beesley s documentary is absorbing, and the rodeo provides the kind of action that the camera loves. But this is less a rah-rah sports film than a compassionate look at difficult lives in a difficult place. --New York Times