Award-Winning ‘Roll Red Roll’ to Screen at Irvington Theater Friday, January 10 Followed by Q&A with Filmmaker
-by Shana Liebman
On January 10, the Irvington Theater will screen the film, Roll Red Roll, a true-crime thriller about the famous 2012 Steubenville High School sexual assault case. Since premiering at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, the documentary has screened at over 40 film festivals worldwide and garnered seven best documentary awards. And in the present sociopolitical climate, it couldn’t be more timely.
The film chronicles a story that began at a pre-season party in small-town Steubenville, Ohio, where an extremely intoxicated teenage girl was assaulted by members of the beloved high school football team. She woke up naked in a basement without memory of the event — an unreliable witness to her own assault.
While the incident was investigated by local police, it wasn’t until crime blogger Alexandria Goddard published some of the social media taking place at and around the time of the incident that the truth came to light. These hundreds of thousands of text messages and hundreds of tweets pointed to a far more disturbing story than anyone realized.
“They chilled me,” says Nancy Schwartzman, the director of Roll Red Roll. “The incident was planned and witnessed and an entire conversation was happening on social media about it.”
It was these messages that compelled Schwartzman to make the film. “I felt like I knew these kids. They reflected some of the attitudes of my high school growing up. I wanted to explore the undercurrents of this compelling and frightful situation. As a sexual assault survivor, the behavior wasn’t unfamiliar to me, but the social media platform was new.”
Schwartzman, a director, producer, and media strategist who uses storytelling and technology to create safer communities for women and girls, chose a novel approach for her feature debut: she decided not to make this the victim’s story, or even to reveal her identity. As a story about “Jane Doe,” Roll Red Roll instead reveals the powerful questions about the collusion of teen bystanders, teachers, parents and coaches to protect the rapists and discredit the victim.
As it painstakingly reconstructs the night of the crime and its aftermath, Roll Red Roll uncovers the ingrained “boys will be boys” psychology at the heart of the incident. “If we want to understand what is ‘rape culture’ —then, here it is, laid bare,” says Schwartzman. “I just couldn’t look away.”
Roll Red Roll will screen at the Irvington Theater (85 Main Street, Irvington, New York) on January 10 at 7:30pm. $15. There will be a Q&A after the film with one of the filmmakers. Wine and popcorn will be served. Visit www.irvingtontheater.com for tickets and more information.