Melbourne 2015 Review: SPEED SISTERS, A Slick And Slight Delight

Editor, Australia; Melbourne, Australia (@Kwenton)
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Melbourne 2015 Review: SPEED SISTERS, A Slick And Slight Delight
Speed Sisters is a slick and entertaining documentary about a group of obsessed and undermined women who compete professionally in the West Bank rally race circuit. 

Providing a point of view that is strictly and politically feminine, the film surprisingly goes to great lengths to not opine about the very obvious conflict and occupation. Presented instead, then, is dedication and perseverance in a surreal place that is constantly warring, yet is a place where living life and even following your dreams is still possible.

The girls break the stereotype mould socially and religiously, and live a very Western-centric lifestyle. Their team captain Suna fought very hard to establish the group, and with the help of the British Consulate in Jerusalem they succeeded. The rest of the brazen and diverse team includes Mona, a contestant for Miss Palestine and local favourite; Noor Dawood, whose interest is leaning towards family; Marah Zahalka; and the famous Betty Saadeh, who has garnered celebrity status due to her beauty, skill, and mixed-race.

The film follows each girl and it quickly becomes clear that while they race to attain rankings equivalent of the male competitors, they themselves are competing with each other; although not directly in opposition; the girls are more independent than they claim. This comes as a blessing and a curse, as Suna tries to work out the tricky managerial issues of such a unique situation. 

One key problem is where to train; with the West Bank occupied and lax sponsorship, the girls must find makeshift tracks, parking lots and even occupied ground, which leads to some truly surreal moments, including Betty being hit by a tear-gas bomb for overstaying her welcome. The film just needs to document the mundane to reveal the truly strange daily life of these women in such a conflicted place. Mona jokes that it is surprising the rally sport is not as accepted, as there are so many check-points on the West Bank. Betty, who is not a native, can travel easily between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv and the cameras follow, revealing a truly different way of life over the wall.

Aside from the challenge of the location, the girls must also conflict with tradition, religion and gender. Mona is lucky as her father, a dentist who works punishing hours, is behind her all the way. It is sweet and their relationships is one of the film's highlights. Society, depicted in a scene where Betty reads from an online message board, is mixed. Some shame the girls for their occupation, deeming their passion for racing as haram, otherwise known as forbidden in Islam law. This is not really the case, though, and there is a streak of modernity that accompanies the team throughout. They have a lot of support, both from the spectators and the community, and even some deeply religious people condemn the attackers.

This streak continues when Mona discusses Ramadan; a period of fasting integral to the faith. While she is discussing it. her Cheshire cat grin reveals that she does not really take it seriously anymore.

Gender is also a major concern; it is a male-dominated society, after all, and this is certainly explored in the film. The organisation that arranges the races try very hard to unscrupulously disqualify the girls for any act, no matter how minor, but it is this element that makes the film stand out the most. 

After following each girl and glimpsing some important aspects of their life, they get on the track, and every preconceived notion goes out the window. Like the best of the men, steely determined they tear up the course, eventually attaining blistering time scores through faultless manoeuvring. They become something special in these moments, far from critique, conflict or fear. They are clear to be who they want, and do what they want. 

This resoundingly powerful message, and images of cool chicks doing really cool things make Speed Sisters an overwhelmingly positive and unmissable experience.

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Documentarymelbourne international film festivalMIFF 2015Speed SistersAmber FaresAdventureDrama