She Lives to Ride

Narrator: Wren Ross.

Narrator: Wren Ross.

Alice Stone’s premiere docu effort is a winner from start to finish, as it demolishes the stereotyped image of “biker chicks.” Through newsreel footage and contempo interviews with five women, “She Lives to Ride” presents a portrait of a subculture seriously at odds with the conventional Hollywood take on motorcyclists. This crowd pleaser will click at fests and at commercial venues that can tap into feminist and/or biker audiences.

Film offers profiles of five very different women, along with fascinating archival footage of cross-country trips in the days before paved highways. The one who steals the show is Dot Robinson, an 82-year-old biker who putt-putts around Florida on a pink motorcycle. However, she’s not just some biking granny but a vet competitive rider who helped break down the gender barrier in the 1930 s.

Another profile is of Jo Giovannoni, a middle-class enthusiast who launched Harley Women magazine when she realized that all the motorcycle publications were either technical journals or skin magazines. She even got the late Malcolm Forbes to pose with the violet cycle he gave to Elizabeth Taylor.

Over the course of the profiles, it becomes evident that, for many women, the lure of the motorcycle is not only the freedom of the open road, but the sense of community formed within the various motorcycle clubs. Robinson’s Motor Maids wear a set uniform, right down to white gloves, while the Cobras (a black women’s group) help plan family-oriented camping trips.

Jacqui Sturgess, leader of the lesbian motorcycle club the Sirens, is shown both coordinating her group’s participation in New York’s Gay Pride parade and formally sipping tea with her partner and fellow cyclist.

Stone puts her film together with wit and verve, including incorporating clips of Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” to show the popular perception of bikers. Helmer’s background as assistant editor on films such as “Homicide” and “The Silence of the Lambs” gives the film a polish not often seen in initial docu efforts.

She Lives to Ride

(DOCU)

Production: An Independent Television Service presentation of a Filkela Films production. Produced, directed, edited by Alice Stone. Narration written by Diane Hendrix.

Crew: Camera (DuArt color), Maryse Alberti; music, Mason Daring; sound, Scott Breindel; sound design, Ron Bochar; associate producer, Hendrix. Reviewed at the Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, Mass., April 26, 1994. (In Boston Intl. Festival of Women's Cinema.) Running time: 75 MIN.

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