Movie Review: ROLL RED ROLL

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Nancy Schwartzman’s harrowing documentary focuses on rape culture as it impacts the ‘middle America’ community of Steubenville, Ohio, where the sexual assault of a teenage girl by local high school football heroes tore the town apart, drew nationwide interest and became a cause celebre for justice.

The evidence of the notorious rape, which took place at a local teen party in 2012, appeared in the form of video postings on social media that showed the boys ‘banging’ a girl who was non-responsive and several times referred to as ‘dead.’ She was, in fact, drunk. And, while in that disabled state, she was physically abused and humiliated in life-impacting ways. The town boys thrilled to the videos. Parents were shocked, but the town wanted to dismiss the incident as a “boys will be boys” event. The boys were football heroes in a town that loves its team, and fans didn’t want their team tarnished. They were intent upon protecting the perpetrators instead of the victim.

Abhorred by the case, feminist crime blogger Alexandria Goddard took to exposing the case to the world at large, and local detective J.P. Rigaud took after the boys to get confessions. Both are interviewed extensively in Roll Red Roll, along with parents and other members of the community whose alarmingly passive responses range from shocked to dumbfounded to dismissive.

Filmmaker Nancy Schwartzman also uses the hard-to-watch video and text messages that were viral on social media to show the horrifying attitudes that reveal the astonishing level of social dysfunction in this ‘middle America’ town.

This documentary is deeply disturbing. And it’s focused only on one notorious case. Unfortunately, news media reports cases like the Steubenville rape all too frequently. And there are other documentaries — such as Kirby Dick‘s The Invisible War that investigates rape in the military, and his The Hunting Ground, exposing the extent of unreported rape of women on college campuses — that show the pervasiveness of rape culture in our society.

To boost awareness of the rape culture and its consequences to individual women and girls and their communities, Roll Red Roll should be mandatory viewing for teens, parents and educators nationwide.

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