Joyce Glasser reviews Speed Sisters (March 25, 2016)
Amber Fares’ engaging documentary is a portrait of the Arab world’s first (and apparently only) all-female motor racing team.
Located in Palestine, the five spirited team-members face obstacles far greater than the availability of parts. The young women risk arriving late for a competition due to Israeli check points or rocket attacks. They have to grapple with the entrenched rulings of the male-run Federation; a lack of space for practice and, in their personal lives, the pressure to conform. What sustains them is their love of fast driving, a love that is apparently shared by the largely male crowds who cheer them on in the town squares where the tournaments are held.
The team members, Marah, Mona, Betty, Noor and team manager Maysoon, are each given the opportunity to tell their stories which are illustrated with footage from their racing, preparation and home lives. Fares ensures that the individual personalities, strengths, foibles and ambitions of each team member comes across.
The central rivalry is between attractive, blond, buxom Betty, who admits, in perfect English, that she is ‘a brand’ and ‘good at publicity for the Federation;’ and emotional, mousey Marah, a top student whose father, Khaled, is her biggest fan. Her elders regret that Marah did not become a lawyer or a doctor so that she could help her people and make a name for herself. But Khaled is one of the most enlightened fathers imaginable and bucks as many stereotypes as his fiercely independent daughter. Khaled works as a dental technician 18-hour days to help Marah’s career, fearing that any day an Israeli-imposed curfew will return the family to poverty.
What is missing from this otherwise enlightening and comprehensive documentary is a sense of what is going on in Palestine with male motor racing and whether the female team are too far behind to present a threat. It would also be interesting to know how the burgeoning female sport in Palestine is viewed by the rest of the world (if it is even acknowledged) and whether any efforts have been made to assist the team in competing internationally, given the Israeli restrictions.