Directed by Marchella De Angelis and Jennifer Schauerte, Woolf Women follows Schaerte, or “Jungle Jenny,” the world’s number 2 women’s downhill skater. She is a world-class athlete who leads a collective of five downhill skateboarders with a passion for thrill-seeking called Woolf Women. They were brought together through skateboarding but have extended their community to live a nomadic life, shunning many material possessions and helping the environment. To celebrate skateboarding and personal growth, the women set out to skate the un-skateable, planning a journey to the Sumela Monastery in the mountains. Their destination has never been touched by boards.
Originally, this documentary was intended to chronicle the lives of these women who take skateboarding further than ever. However, just as their journey is about to begin, tragedy strikes when Schauerte is critically injured weeks before the expedition. She undergoes three surgeries on her leg and must endure the constant question, “Will I ever skate again?” What began as an odyssey of adrenaline soon became a proving ground for Schauerte’s recovery. With her safety in question and the memory of her late father as her guide, Schauerte must push herself further than ever before to reach Sumela Monastery.
“…the women set out to skate the un-skateable, planning a journey to the Sumela Monastery…”
Woolf Women shines the most when it’s just playing into the constant “cool factor” of downhill skating. Shots of these women speeding down mountainsides on skateboards are phenomenal. Every ride features impressive skating skills and gorgeous scenery as a backdrop to the, at times, death-defying runs. The film is essentially five hippies at the height of downhill skateboarding, traveling from country to country seeking out the next un-skated mountain (they even skate down Mount Olympus). The parts of the film that focus on that “hippie skater” aesthetic are spectacular. Introductions to our “Woolf Women” are delayed, coming almost 22 minutes in. But the film captures their vibe very quickly; these are some of the craziest and best skaters on the planet.
For all of the “cool factor” in the premise, the film suffers from an uneven tone and pace. The unevenness is most prominent in the jarring changes in the soundtrack, often to the detriment of the more emotional or thrilling moments. The soundtrack shifts from whimsical classical music while skating to angsty alt-rock when rafting and then to synth-heavy EDM, all at breakneck speed. In a post-Tony Hawk Pro-Skater and Skate Dreams world, a killer soundtrack is almost a pre-requisite for a skateboarding film. And thus, the need for soundtrack continuity is apparent throughout. While some scenes could benefit from different scoring choices, the seemingly emotionless narration undercuts many of the most emotional scenes, making the film and Schauerte’s journey feel very clinical instead of spiritual.
Watching a group of skaters fly at blazing speeds down Mount Olympus is so much fun. The women within Woolf Women are doing some great humanitarian work, and Schauerte’s arc should be inspiring. Emphasis on should. All the parts of an inspirational story are present. However, the film does little to cultivate the best pieces of her story. The score misses the mark in most scenes (save for the environmental folk song in the first half), and the jarring tonal changes take away most of the film’s poignance. Still, there’s a strong message of friendship, and seeing a community doing the impossible and bettering the world are cornerstones for an empowering documentary.
"…features impressive skating skills and gorgeous scenery..."