Logline: "Ovarian Psycos" is a feature documentary abou a new generation of women of color in East Los Angeles who are redefining identity and building community through a raucous, irreverently named bicycle crew: The Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade.
Length: 73 min
Director/Producer: Joanna Sokolowski & Kate Trumbull-LaValle
Editor: Victoria Chalk
About the Directors:
Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle met in graduate school. The two bonded over a shared commitment to produce intimate, nuanced portraits of the contemporary female experience. The duo formed Sylvia Frances Films in 2013, named after their mothers’ first names, to produce their first feature documentary, OVARIAN PSYCOS.
Key cast: Xela de la X, Andi Xoch, Evelyn Martinez and the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigaide
Looking for: International sales agents and distributors
Funders: ITVS Diversity Development Fund, ITVS, California Council for the Humanities, Pacific Pioneer Fund
Release date: 2016
Where can I watch it? We are headed to Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival June 20th & June 25th. After that we hit Outfest LGBT Film Festival in Los Angeles July 9th & July 16th. And we have a Boyle Heights (Eastside LA) community screening in the works in collaboration with the Ovas soon after. Plus, you can see the film next year on Independent Lens on PBS. Check out our Facebook for updated screenings and events: https://www.facebook.com/TheOvarianPsycosDocumentary
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Kate: This film has been a labor of love. From the moment we found out about the Ovarian Psycos and their work, from the moment we met their founder Xela de la X, and from that very first ride with the collective, we knew these women, their stories, and their activism would make for a compelling film.
Xela and the Ovas are fierce, unapologetic feminist women of color. They are brilliant strategists and have crafted an image and politics that centers their own voices, the stories of women of color from their neighborhoods, to fight against personal and collective violence. We hadn't seen a film like this, and wanted to see a film like this, so we asked them if we could make it.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Joanna: We attempted to craft an honest, intimate chronicle about the lives of young radical women - that takes you from the streets where they ride in protest, to their bedrooms and kitchens where they reflect and live out their lives. The film delves into themes of racism, poverty, patriarchy, immigration, colonialism, and sexual violence, but the heart of the film is really about the bonds of family and sisterhood.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Kate: The film is about relationships, specifically about relationships between mothers, daughters and sisters. It's about the family you inherit, and the family and community you build on your own. And at its very core, it's a film about how everyone, especially folks who live outside the boundaries of what’s considered normative, desire to be loved and supported, to be understood, to have a reliable network.
For the Ovas that support is envisioned as sisterhood. Sisterhood is a form of protection, it’s a safe haven to heal, and it’s back-up for the fight against inter-personal, institutional and historical violence.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
Joanna: When we first approached the Ovarian Psycos about making this film we were initially interested in their activism. Their motto is: “Ovaries so big we don't need fucking balls.” They wear bandanas emblazoned with the image of the uterus and fallopian tubes. their language and iconography immediately draws you in. And that’s part of their organizing strategy.
But we quickly learned that behind the mask, the daily work these women do is really much more personal, transformative and deeply motivated by their own her-stories. Throughout production, as we became closer to Xela, Andi and Evie, the film evolved to focus on their family lives, the bonds between mother and daughter and their motivations for why they do the work they do. This resonates through the entire film and ultimately is the heartbeat of the story.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Kate: We premiered at SXSW Film Festival, and we brought along our three main protagonists, Xela, Andi and Evie. Folks fall in love with them and genuinely seem grateful to them for sharing their lives on camera. I witnessed a woman approach Xela, speechless, standing trembling with her young daughter, and she just reached out for a hug and said thank you.
But premiering at SXSW was also a bit of a challenge for the Ovas. SXSW is a for profit festival that has been openly criticized for gentrifying East Austin. And gentrification is one of the current issues that the Ovarian Psycos are facing and fighting in their neighborhood of Boyle Heights.
So Xela called this out during our Q&A - which was an incredible opportunity. It has really ignited a parallel conversation about gentrification, an issue our film does not deal with head on. It's a testament to how strategic they are. Xela and the Ovas have been able to use the film as a platform to talk about a real active threat today in their lives and neighborhoods.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Joanna: Kate and I are not from Eastside Los Angeles; we are outsiders to the community. Kate is Latina, her mom is Mexican-American, but she presents as white. I’m Jewish and white. Behind the scenes, identity and race was a discussion we had openly between us as filmmakers, and the Ovarian Psycos – whose organizing and core collective is solely by and or women of color.
We had many conversations off-camera with the Ovas, specifically Xela, about why we wanted to make this film, about race and privilege, about the power dynamics inherit to documentary, and what it means to bring a camera into the room. Those conversations were necessary and invaluable.
The Ovas really challenged us as filmmakers to be accountable and transparent throughout this process. They taught us about what good allyship means to them, and they upped our game as doc makers. Since a lot of those conversations happened off camera, folks have been anxious to hear more about the ongoing process of trust building.
Privilege is not something erased by acknowledging it, it is a part of the ongoing life of the film and our relationship and responsibility to the Ovarian Psycos. So we've been having these conversations together with the Ovas, with Xela, and with our audience - whose interest and perspectives continue to inform and challenge us throughout the release of the film.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Kate: We just welcome the opportunity to bring the film to a larger and more engaged audience.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Joanna: We are working with Women Make Movies for our educational and domestic distribution, but are still looking for international sales agents and distributors who can help us bring the film to folks throughout Europe and Latin America who are interested in seeing a new perspective on radical female organizing.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Kate: Our film will be on PBS’s Independent Lens next year, which we are thrilled about - so getting lots of eyeballs to see our doc and igniting conversations around the themes in our film is very exciting! In terms of the question of impact, that is one we are working on now in partnership with the Ovas.
They do incredible work, and will continue to do incredible work. We hope this film will be yet another tool for them to us, and hopefully a useful platform they can use to bring folks together. We’ll strategize with them in terms of how best to do that.
But really now our job as filmmakers and for this project is to just get out of their way! They know what they are doing, always have, and they are the ones at the forefront on making change happen.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Joanna: Where to begin? There are innumerable themes presented in this film. Different folks seem to find their own point of connection with these stories. In Toronto, a young woman was eager to connect the story of the Ovas to her own experience being indigenous.
In Seattle, a group of young women were really connected to the issues of gentrification and displacement. In New York, a young woman was curious about how to talk to her own mom about being independent and striking out on her own. I think that’s been one of the most fascinating aspects of releasing this film, there is not so much a key question or conversation, but instead endless ways to relate and identify with Xela, Andi and Evie’s stories.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Kate: Babies. We are both pregnant. So first up, we're working on babies. Next up, Joanna and I are again working together an an experimental and collaborative documentary about the lives of young women, young mothers who have experienced chronic homelessness. We are in the very early stages of development, but hope to launch pre-production next year - after we have these babies!
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela