Movie Review - Ovarian Psycos (Portland Film Festival)

In part, this is a story about Boyle Heights, a neighborhood in East Los Angeles. Directors Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle show that Boyle Heights is just a hop, skip and a jump from downtown L.A. The two sections separated by the Los Angeles River are on opposite sides of a short bridge, yet it might as well be a canyon. The documentary touches upon the history of Boyle Heights and the so-called Chicano Movement, a fight for Mexican-American rights, akin to the Civil Rights Movement for African-Americans in the 1950's and 60's.

The Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade is embodying the spirit of that Chicano Movement fifty years ago. This time, the focus is on women, women identified or gender non-conforming. One of the members states that the group is for uneducated women, for knuckle-headed girls, for the punk rockers, for the cholas, for the sisters in the neighborhood who live that hard life.

The group of women gather and have bicycle rides. They say the rides are about claiming space in unsafe zones. The women talk about issues like domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women. Sokolowski and Trumbull-LaValle include TV news reports about the murders of Latina women. The bike rides are about empowering the women, as it is protesting this violence.

They say that it's all about healing the community emotionally and spiritually. An article in the LA Times by Denise Flores in 2013 though is headlined as "Their Chain Gang." One of the members, Maryann, objects to the term "gang." She asks accusatory why are they labeled a gang, denoting a negative association to the word. Maylei Blackwell, the author of ¡Chicana Power!, says the group did co-opt gang symbols. Yet, they're a group that is claiming the oppression against them and trying to take the power for themselves.

Through following the group, Sokolowski and Trumbull-LaValle's cameras also capture a full portrait of its leader. Her name is Xela de la X, the founder or at least one of the initial members of the Ovarian Psycos. She's also a rapper. There are other women whom we get to know, but Xela is the one whose life into which we really dive, and it's a heartbreaking and difficult life, fuel for the group and this movie.

Not Rated but contains language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 12 mins.

Playing as the Closing Night Film at the 2016 Portland Film Festival.
For a preview of films at PDXFF16, go to The M Report on DelmarvaLife.
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