Roller Dreams is a fascinating and unexpected story of a utopian scene created by African Americans in the late 1970s. Roller skate dancing briefly blossomed into a genuine national craze, but when Hollywood represented the culture, it was white actors who played all the roles and white dancers who took the credit.
Roller Dreams offers the feel-good vibes you might expect from scenes of young people dancing on wheels to disco music at Venice Beach in Los Angeles. The film combines giddy entertainment value with untold stories about the quest for creative expression, and the American dream against a backdrop of police harassment, gentrification, and the threat of downward social mobility. Director Kate Hickey’s film is filled with unforgettable characters including charismatic Mad, who runs the beach; Sally, who leaves her Middle Eastern immigrant upbringing behind when she falls in love with roller skating (and Mad); and Duval, who fashions his own wacky outfits and is often dressed as Superman. In the present, many of the people in the film suffer from health problems and poverty, but a beach reunion promises an opportunity to come to terms with the past. Amazing archival footage of coordinated dance routines and other roller-dancing sessions on the beach make this an unmissable experience. -KR