Ovarian Psycos – “An empowering film, proving that there are no rules set, and that you can be whoever you want to be”

Under the harsh LA sun, bikes roam the streets. The monthly luna ride carries women, of all colour, through the rough end of the city. Ovarian Psycos documents a group of women who, in their communities, have begun a revolution.

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When a 24-year old woman is found murdered, stabbed by her ex-boyfriend, this clan take it personally. Women are more likely than men to run away from home. The ‘Ovarian Psycos’ are a biker gang whose sole intention is to support, love and befriend the voiceless in their communities. Ovarian Psycos is an empowering film, proving that there are no rules set, and that you can be whoever you want to be.

Formed in 2010, the ‘Ovarian Psycos’ set up and organise bicycle rides through the city of angels. As a group, they are safe, while individually many (though not all) are victims of abuse. Xela, a mother of a young girl herself and an original Ovarian Psyco, talks us through her life story. We meet her brother, who says that as she was the only girl in the boy-heavy family, her room was “her cell”. Xela struggles to even describe her upbringing: her father abused her regularly, that much is clear. Her mother, initially, didn’t believe Xela when she revealed the sins of her father. Xela, a strong, independent woman and outstanding role model for her daughter, breaks down whenever she tries to explain her difficult history. In contrast, we see Evie, a young girl who joins the Ovarian Psycos, keen to take part in their community-centric ideas. Fitness in the park, meetings and the bike rides all draw her into a group that accepts her as she is, on her own terms.

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When the documentary begins, the girls look threatening. Many are covered with tattoos, with anti-establishment t-shirts and handmaid bracelets defining their dress codes. Like the gangs on the streets, they wear fabric face-masks, with patterns and designs specially created for the crew. Looking closer, we realise it is an extension of their creative culture. Akin to the murals in East LA, the creativity of the Mexican community shines through. Evie’s mother explains how, in El Salvador, she had “bullets at her feet” and others know the abuse that can affect young women in dangerous communities. In their words, they are “sisters in the neighbourhood who lived the hard life”. The night-time bike rides are about claiming space in dangerous zones. Being a rebellious spirit is part of the Ovarian Psyco mantra and the fallopian tubes and ovaries have been reclaimed as decoration on face masks – even becoming part of their hand-gestures to represent their association.

This collective of women take no bullsh*t. Ovaries replace the masculine “balls” that define the brave alpha-male. But Ovarian Psycos digs deeper, touching upon the Chicano Civil Rights that was birthed in Los Angeles. The history of Mexican-American women has been erased and their position in their own culture has been side-lined. While the bicycle brigade “heal communities” and chant how they must “love and protect each other”, they are more than a gang (despite what LA Weekly claim). They tap into the legacy of the oppressed, providing an ethnically diverse community that support, strengthen and empowers the members within.

Directors Johanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle cram include an enormous amount of detail in this 72-minute film. They touch upon the abuse the cyclists receive on their Facebook group, recalling the sexist attack on the Ghostbusters production. The same interesting question arises: rather than why do they ride through town, it should be why can’t they cycle through town? Men, and others who don’t see the value of the bike rides, criticise what they know nothing about. The slick soundtrack is electronic and connects bikes-obsessed Ovarian Psycos to the car-obsessed Drive. Their tribal connection links a contemporary, modern movement with a long history before and young girls, children of their Ovarian Psyco mothers, look on. The fallopian tubes, that share symmetry with the handlebars on the bikes, represent change and pro-active action. Evie, the new Psyco, by the end is a different person. Physically and emotionally she has changed. She doesn’t care for the female stereotype and, as she dances with such elation and joy, it is clear the Ovarian Psycos are helping people for the better.

This was part of the London Film Festival 2016 coverage for Culturefly

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