It would be nearly impossible to not get caught up in the quietly infectious spirit of Indy Saini's vibrant and alive feature doc Women in the Front Seat, a film that explores the diverse worlds of female motorcycle riders and Saini's own cross-country ride where she met with many of these women featured in the film with rather remarkable stories to tell.
Picked up by distributor Indie Rights for a digital and VOD release, Women in the Front Seat picked up several awards along its festival journey including prizes at California Women's Festival (Best Feature Doc), Indigo Moon Film Festival (Audience Award and Jury Award, Best Feature Doc), Mystic Film Festival (Audience Award and Best Doc Cinematography), Nevada Women's Film Festival (Best Feature Doc), and Toronto International Women Film Festival (Best Feature Doc).
Indeed, Women in the Front Seat is a beautiful film to behold with stories that captivate, lensing that mesmerizes, and bikes that just plain kick ass.
As a paraplegic/double amputee who once biked, yes the wheelchair worked sublimely in a sidecar, I found myself completely enthralled by the stories of these women and how they refuse to cater to stereotypes and instead create their own paths in a myriad of different ways.
While it can easily go wildly awry when a filmmaker includes themselves within their own film, it's hard to imagine Women in the Front Seat without Saini's own transformative solo trek riding her own Indian Scout (which happens to be my favorite bike. Hey, if Saini can include herself in the film I get to include myself in my review of the film). There are shots here of Saini's journey that gave me chills - I openly confess I'm not nearly badass enough to even try this kind of journey. Yet, watching Saini face her fears, stare down difficult conditions, confront exhaustion, and even more is absolutely thrilling.
The stories, however, don't end with Saini.
There's awe-inspiring Wendy Crockett, the first woman to win the 11,000 mile Iron Butt Rally in 2019 and recently named a Guinness World Record holder after she and her riding partner did over 80,000 miles in 4 months. There are other beautifully realized stories such as a mother and sculptor, an Iraq war veteran, and a group of millennials from the Midwest who formed their own motorcycle group.
Women in the Front Seat is both awe-inspiring and world-building as Saini captures the community of women who go full throttle and the relationships they have with each other and, perhaps more importantly, with their bikes.
The original score by Catherine Joy serves as a perfect companion to Saini's own lensing that is exciting and spirited, observational and quietly intimate. Saini's lens captures these women in all their glorified badassery along with their rich humanity.
A practical must-see for biking enthusiasts, Women in the Front Seat is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for anyone who celebrates defying stereotypes and taking the road less traveled.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic