21 Mar 2020

Arielle Kilker: Cheer co-director's feelgood hit

From Saturday Morning, 10:05 am on 21 March 2020

After meeting Texan cheer-leading coach Monica Aldama, the makers of Netflix docu-series Cheer knew they had to film at Navarro College where she works.

The series, which follows Navarro's junior cheer squad's preparation for the 2019 national champs, has become a massive hit since its release in January 2020.

But some see in Cheer a darker story – a depiction of athletes breaking themselves at the behest of an inhumane authority figure.

The filmmakers wanted to show all sides of Monica, aka The Queen, co-director Arielle Kilker tells Kim Hill.

"If you're wondering 'I don't truly know how I feel about this person', as documentary makers, I think we've done our job. Life is complicated, it's not black and white. And to boil something down and present somebody as either a villain… or a hero… these two things can co-exist."

In the show, we see the cheerleaders pulling off  jaw-dropping stunts while enduring endless practices and bone-crunching injuries.

Many come from troubled backgrounds and Monica fills a role for them, as someone who truly cares, Kilker says.

"This is the first time in their lives some of these kids feel like they're doing what they're supposed to be doing and have people that support and love them.'

"Where they come from and how they're coping with the trauma that has happened to them, I think all of that has led them into cheer-leading, into this sport that is so dangerous and yet so exciting and fulfilling for them in so many ways."

Kilker hopes there will be a second series of Cheer.