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Riding at night through streets deemed dangerous in Eastside Los Angeles, the Ovarian Psycos use their bicycles to confront the violence in their lives. At the helm of the crew is founder Xela de la X, a single mother and poet M.C. dedicated to recruiting an unapologetic, misfit crew of women of color. The film intimately chronicles Xela as she struggles to strike a balance between her activism and nine year old daughter Yoli; street artist Andi who is estranged from her family and journeys to become a leader within the crew; and bright eyed recruit Evie, who despite poverty, and the concerns of her protective Salvadoran mother, discovers a newfound confidence.

The documentary will premier March 11 at SXSW. But there are still budget challenges to face head on and the producers are running an important Kickstarter campaign to fill the gaps. Go here to support: Ovarian Psycos: WORLD PREMIERE at SXSW!

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We took a few minutes to interview the filmmakers Joanna Sokolowski & Kate Trumbull-LaValle and this is what we learned.

SARAI: “Hello ladies! I am so thrilled to learn more about this extraordinary film. I’ve know about the Ovarian Psycos for awhile and I’ve always been really curious about them. Can you tell us how you found them and how the film came to be?”

KATE: “We’ve been following the Ovarian Psycos since summer 2012 – I was working on a film for PBS called NO MÁS BEBÉS, directed by Renee Tajima-Pena, about the sterilization of Mexican-origin-women in East Los Angeles. We were looking for outreach partners for that film, the producer suggested the Ovarian Psychos. That was the first time I had heard of them.”

KATE: “We immediately connected to the Politics of the brigade. They are in your face. They have an unapologetic way of talking about feminism, and the issues for women of color, specifically in East Los Angeles. They have a hybrid way of using different cultural markers – everything from pop culture, riot girls, gang culture in LA.”

Kate and Joanna sent a facebook message to the group and finally connected with Xela de la X, the founder of the brigade. It took time to gain trust and convince the women to let the filmmakers into their world. 

KATE: “We started as kinda like nerdy fans, completely intrigued, but not knowing them. Obsessing over how refreshing it was to see young women, young women of color, urban women reinventing this Chicana history. Creating a legacy with feminism, and using the bicycle to do it.”

JOANNA: “They use the bicycle as a tool to get the attention of young women. But the story is about the work that they do behind the bike. Every month they have a Luna ride. They gather all of the women that are in the brigade and all of the women who want to join. At the end of the ride they have a discussion. Those discussions are just as important as the work that they do on while riding.”

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The monthly Luna Rides are a combination of visibility and safety for the women on the streets. But it also provides a comfortable space for private conversations about issues that are important to them. The topics cover everything from abuse and safety to Chicano history. Violence against women is at the forefront for the Ovas (Ovarian Psycos). They talk about it in their work, on their rides, and in their politics when they get together. 
East LA is really connected to the Chicano and Chicana civil rights movement. It’s considered the birthplace, so it’s an incredibly politicized community. It’s a rich community of working class, mostly Latino. It’s very vibrant with interesting art and a healthy activism scene, but at the same time it’s plagued by street violence.

KATE: “When we were filming and when the Ovarian Psycos were forming, many women were found killed. That really affected the Ovas, it really sharpened their work. In the film we ride around with Andi to remember the important work that Chicana women were doing in the 60s and 70s, because a lot of the work that Ovas are doing is an extension of that.”

JOANNA: “Gathering on the bike, riding through public dangerous places, is like an act of rebellion, especially at night, in places where women don’t typically feel safe – It’s something they can do to take some of that power back.”

KATE: “Although the fixed gear bike scene has become really popular, in communities like East LA, the bike is also an important mode of transit. Having a free mode of transit is really important for these women, it provides freedom of movement, freedom to leave a situation. It’s important, not only to the individual but to the fabric of neighbors. The bicycle has certainly become an important political organizing tool.”

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SARAI: “Are there any specific examples of how these women have been impacted on an individual level?”

JOANNA: “One of the characters that we got to know, Evie – not your typical Ova – she’s young, a bigger girl, not a punk rocker – she lives with her mom and her siblings and she discovers a new part of herself through riding. She joined the Ovas because of their politics, but she fell in love with cycling and you can see that it changes her. In the film we sort of watch her blossom. She experiences her body in a new way and the freedom of mobility, be able to be out late at night, and have a safe way to get home.”

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GBL: “As women who came to this project as very casual riders, what did you learn about how a bicycle can transform a woman’s life?”

KATE: “I think Xela said it best, ‘When you are riding by yourself, sure that feels good. But when you’re riding with a group of women, you feel supported, you feel like, damn, you’ve got back up, you feel like you can win the war.'”

JOANNA: “And finally, what we learned is that the bike for some women can be a key to freedom, freedom of movement, independence, you don’t have to rely on anyone, and it gives you a sense of physical strength.”

This is an incredibly important story of women being empowered by the bicycle in our very own backyard. At Girl Bike Love we believe in the power of the bicycle to build community, to empower individuals, and to create change. We are thrilled to follow along as this story is released. Check out the Kickstarter campaign and follow along on facebook.

By Sarai Snyder – Boulder, CO – follow her on twitter and instagram and at thebruisereport.com.