Picks of the Week: Two Documentaries Tackling Tough Subjects with Grace and Dignity are Coming to HBO

Picks of the Week is Women and Hollywood’s newest resource. We are often asked for recommendations, so each week we’ll spotlight the women-driven and women-made projects—movies, series, VOD releases and more—that we’re most excited about. Sign up for the Women and Hollywood newsletter at womenandhollywood.com to get each week’s pick delivered to your inbox.

Pick of the Week: United Skates

Directed by Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown; Written by Dyana Winkler

A fascinating look into a African-American subculture that’s been largely overlooked by the mainstream, United Skates digs into the history—and uncertain future—of roller skating rinks in the U.S.

Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler’s documentary explores the huge impact rinks have had on hip-hop culture, and what the meeting place means to millions of Black Americans, both historically and presently. The Tribeca Audience Award-winner is a beautiful celebration of the magic that takes place on rinks across the nation, but it also offers an important case study in segregation of the past and present, exploring how many rinks create rules designed to deter people of color from participating and the coded language used to communicate what events they are welcome to attend.

“At a time when our country feels very divided, we want people to see that this is a community celebrating what unites them,” Brown and Winkler told us in an interview. It’s an absolute thrill to watch families, friends, couples, and strangers having the time of their lives on the rink—and performing amazing acts of athleticism and artistry in doing so. With rinks shuttering at an alarming rate, United Skates is a powerful testament to what will be lost when their doors close. (Laura Berger)

United Skates is streaming now on HBO GO and HBO NOW.

Pick of the Week: It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It

Co-Directed by Madeleine Sackler (Click here to read Women and Hollywood’s interview with Sackler.)

There’s a lot going on in It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It. The product of a filmmaking workshop held at Indiana’s Pendleton Correctional Facility, the doc was made in collaboration by director Madeleine Sackler and inmates Dennis Brown, Marshaun Buggs, Al’Jonon Coleman, James Collins, Franklin Cox, Brandon Crider, Clifford Elswick, Quentis Hardiman, Joseph Henderson, Charles Lawrence, Herb Robertson, Rushawn Tanksley and Mark Thacker. In its relatively short running time (one hour and 15 minutes), the film explores who gets to tell certain stories, and how they should be told.

As prisoners who ended up in a maximum-security facility due to violence, the doc’s filmmakers/subjects are among the most marginalized people in the U.S. Using the filmmaking tenets Sackler teaches, the directors/film subjects interview one another about their pasts, their crimes, their identities and their dreams. Wisely, Sackler mostly acts as an observer and gives these men the space and opportunity to share their stories on their terms.

Politically and socially, we don’t tend to care about convicts or their perspectives: they did wrong, and deserve to be punished and ignored. But It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It sees Brown, Buggs, Coleman, Collins, Cox, Crider, Elswick, Hardiman, Henderson, Lawrence, Robertson, Tanksley and Thacker as people, neither good nor bad, and allows them to speak for themselves.

It’s revolutionary—and incredibly vital. (Rachel Montpelier)

It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It will air on HBO February 25 at 10 p.m. ET. It will subsequently be available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.


Women and Hollywood educates, advocates and agitates for gender diversity and inclusion in Hollywood and the global film industry. The site, founded in 2007 by Melissa Silverstein, sets the standard, defines the conversation, fuels coverage and reinforces messages throughout the specialized and mainstream media to call for gender parity on a daily basis. Follow W&H at @WomenaHollywood and Melissa @MelSil.