Dirtwoman (2018)

In this documentary, filmmaker Jerry Williams investigates the life and events that have made Dirtwoman famous and infamous in the Richmond area from birth until death, including her very own pinup calendar release, her collaboration with GWAR, and the yearly Hamaganza spectacular to name but a few.

The way Jerry Williams builds his documentary about Dirtwoman is mainly from interviews done with Dirtwoman and those who interacted with her throughout the years. Most of the interviewees recount stories and events they were present for and a few fill in the gaps with information and stories they have heard. Of course, videos and interviews of the documentary’s subject are plenty and give a very good idea of what life was like being Dirtwoman. This leads to the information feeling like a mix of experiences and gossip. Both types of types of information come off a bit on the juicy side of things as everyone interviewed has had such particular and often extravagant interactions with her. This gives a view on the subject that feels almost exaggerated while being grounded in reality from a certain point of view.

This documentary has a low-brow, low-budget style that seems to be fitting of Dirtwoman, something that gives an almost gritty view on her life and on where she came from, explaining the personality taken on and the actions that have led her to local fame. Some of the interviews and materials are older and show their age while others are newer. The way these are brought together works fairly well in helping to keep a mostly consistent style and feeling throughout the film.

This being a very low budget endeavor, the way things are shot is very much on the lower end of cinematography and the editing does its best to bring it all together.  The film has a certain vibe to it that works for it, but it will not work for everyone watching it. It’s not a glossy documentary or one that will warrant many watches from most viewers. It’s an interesting one-off of sorts even if the subject is not in the viewer’s wheelhouse as it’s interesting to see how things went in Richmond for someone as unique as Dirtwoman.

For those who read about the subject and are attracted to the film, this will be a fascinating exercise in style and in documentary filmmaking, but for those who do not feel any attraction to subject or to learning more about her, it will be a bit of a long watch that will feel like it’s not bringing much to them. That being said, “Dirtwoman” is fascinating in its own way and makes sure that viewers get an eyeful or two as they get to know the Dirtwoman of Richmond.

Review Originally Posted June 5th, 2019