Speed Sisters Review


Amber Fares’ swift and bustling documentary follows the first ever female racing team in the Middle East as they prepare for a series of races throughout Palestine. Director Fares packs character and punchy bluster into a fleeting 80 minutes but fails to delve into any of the intriguing cultural/political topics it coolly skims across.

Instead Speed Sisters feels like a unique intro into an unchartered side of a sport/ subculture that deserves a more detailed study. Dubious public relations (with racing fans and the Palestinian Motor Sports and Motorcycle Board), tense family affairs and political altercations are cited  but never fully explored. This frustratingly teases untapped potential for Fares’ film to be riveting. As it stands, Speed Sisters cheerily seizes surface stories without probing the more absorbing content to enrich its account. Yet Fares succeeds in mining  jubilant vibrancy from its characters and their boundless enthusiasm for the sport.

From the first race at the Palestine motor park to others through an Israeli food market and helicopter pad, the story follows Marah, Noor, Mona and Betty and the events they partake in, while the background is blushed by lively friends and carping family members. Marah’s mother is also her instructor while father Kahlah cheerily recalls moments from his daughter’s childhood; like the time an eleven year old Marah stole the family car. Meanwhile, Team Captain Maysoon takes the crew on a tour through Palestine, protests and battle zones while sharing insights into and memories of the surrounding areas, which makes for a rousing backdrop to a slightly tortuous tale. “The smell of gas reminds me of my childhood” states Maysoon as she drives towards an Israeli military check-point and swiftly rolls up the window.

It’s oddly these bantam intricacies that enrich Speed Sisters (along with some pithy editing), more than the actual footage of the racing. Other notable moments include Maysoon’s father bee-keeping, kids gleefully playing football with a bucket in the road, a bystander manufacturing candy floss from the back of his ramshackle car and family stories of life under military occupation. Various characters voice their views on the women racing: Marah’s grandfather wanted his granddaughter to do something more meaningful with her life and within a more reputable profession. Marah simply stares in disbelief as he announces this.

Speed Sisters sometimes dallies like it’s looking for a reason, or has lost its point in the vibrant camaraderie, but the film judders with an energy lacking from most documentaries. What shines brightest in Speed Sisters other than its smaller moments, are the racers themselves, their tremendous characters and fervour for the profession. Racer Betty Saadah, boasts a brash and striking demeanour. Betty feels it’s important to show she is not a tomboy, cue footage of shopping for dresses and getting her nails done while she openly labels herself “a brand”. Betty is also cautious of being exploited by the racing officials and younger, more agitated fans and states she is constantly trying to make the male federation feel like they are in control.

Chance events occur in the latter half leading some of the racers to re-question their lives and occupations. “I’m sick and tired of walking the same streets, seeing the same faces” states one of the racers, while others seem either disillusioned or deadened to living under military control. Maysoon states that if the right man wanted to marry her, she would leave the racing world behind, to the glaring dismay of her colleague. Speed Sisters reveals the turmoil within a run-down community surrounding the women’s families and lives but unfortunately feels mostly like a best footage compilation loosely structured around the races.

Without sinking its teeth into the surrounding disarray or dissecting the dormant themes that smoulder beneath the surface, Speed Sisters ultimately fails to move or totally rivet yet it remains a pleasingly fast, but not very furious expose of the rarely seen side of a sporting phenomenon.

Speed Sisters
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Daniel Goodwin
Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.
speed-sisters-reviewSpeed Sisters sometimes dallies like it’s looking for a reason, or has lost its point in the vibrant camaraderie, but the film judders with an energy lacking from most documentaries.