Berlin Feminist Film Week 2017 Review: Ovarian Psycos
Filmmakers Kate Trumbull-Lavalle and Joanna Sokolowski take an in-depth look into a group of young women of color, mostly Latinas, who ride bikes through East L.A. while calling attention to violence against women. The documentary Ovarian Psycos follows these proud and badass riders as they take back their streets, especially during their monthly all-women Luna rides. The Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade, a.k.a. Ovas, provide a much-needed safe haven and visible space for women who are confronting abuse and trauma from their past and present. It makes sense that East L.A. was the home of the Chicano and Chicana civil rights movement, in which women were key organizing members. The three women who are at the focus of the film are single mother and poet Xela de la X, founder of the Ovas, street artist Andi Xoch and newest member Evie.
Xela uses the strength gained from overcoming hardships to encourage activism and women’s rights in the Ovas’ East Los Angeles community all the while raising her nine-year-old daughter Yoli. The film hints at sexual abuse in Xela’s past without going into too much detail. Her brother thinks it was unfair how she was treated as a prisoner, always required to be home while her brothers had the freedom to go and do what they wanted. One particularly touching scene shows Xela outside of her school pointing to a concrete slab where she would sleep to avoid abuse at home.
Andi is a political street artist who makes unique gender-neutral toys. The disappointment that she faces from not getting her mother’s support for the monthly Luna rides is quite affecting. Andi channels this energy into becoming an active leader in the Ovas, and in turn, she encourages a shy new member, Evie, to become more involved with their community. Evie is faced with the pressure from her Salvadorean mother, who believes bikes are meant for boys, to study and make a good living. She is torn between financially helping the family and focusing more on herself and the Ovas.
The male point of view is, also, taken into consideration. One interviewee says that he has no problem with the all-women Luna night rides since most community rides are normally only 10% women. On the other hand, one bike shop worker takes offense that the Luna rides exclude men. Clearly, he’s not alone, as a social media montage shows a plethora of anonymous men posting threatening and disparaging comments about the Ovas. It might have been interesting to see more about this tense relationship between the male and female riding communities.
The dynamic shooting style of cinematographer Michael Raines vividly displays the Ovas commanding Los Angeles streets. Raines makes use his impressive rollerblading skills to capture their constant, fast-paced cycling movements. Victoria Chalk seamlessly edits gorgeous crane shots, which highlight the vast urban East L.A. territory, with various bike close-ups. These edits when paired with Jimmy LaValle’s high-energy original score provide a perfect cinematic balance.
The feminist efforts of the Ovas is a positive message not just for women and girls but also for men and boys. It’s important for father, brothers, husbands and sons to see the females in their community feeling safe and empowered in public spaces. Trumbull-Lavalle and Sokolowski’s intimate documentation of the Ovarian Psycos Cycling Brigade movement should be an inspiration for anyone who has ever felt disenfranchised.
Stars: 4 out of 5
Cast: Xela de la X, Andi Xoch, Evie Martinez
Directors: Kate Trumball-LaValle, Joanna Sokolowski
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Languages: English, Spanish
Production Company: Sylvia Frances Films
by Lindsay Bellinger