Women Behind the Wheel
To watch Women Behind the Wheel is to embark on a (nearly) two-hour journey of womanhood, diversity and human emotion in its purest form. The documentary follows Hannah Congdon and Catherine “Cat” Haigh as they drive across Central Asia’s 3000km Pamir Highway. Featuring stunning landscapes and rich culture, each location brings fascinating characters, heartwarming interactions and captivating tales of the trials and tribulations these women have endured and overcome. The road trip begins and ends with the same intention: to share and to learn.
Imagery plays a huge part here and is vital in both the storytelling and the pacing. Never staying in one area for too long, stretching landscapes quickly transition to intimate family scenes of communal cooking and hearty meals. Although this style can feel rushed, the intrepid spirit of Hannah and Cat’s delivery ensures viewers are always kept in the loop and share in their mindset of wanting to explore and meet as many people as possible.
The continuous narration arguably drives this feature and provides the necessary context behind each interaction. Flitting between Cat and Hannah’s voiceovers, it explains the unexpected hurdles the women had to leap over in order to reach the finish line. Although this style of storytelling is common for documentaries, the seamless interweaving of differing narrative threads (the pair speaking in the moment and their comments in hindsight) propels a front-seat dive into their unique adventure. Emotion is bountiful and the audience shares in their confusion, delight, anger and sorrow.
Glimpses of underlying sexism are frequent and important throughout. Although the incidents vary in severity (among them a strange exchange at border control, where tampons are heavily questioned, to which Hannah replies, “It’s not a cotton missile”), the quick-change scenes play the crucial role of visualising exactly why this documentary has been made. These everyday interactions become exhausting and ultimately demonstrate the sheer urgency of highlighting the female experience globally.
From the very first meeting, it is glaringly obvious to see how women have struggled at the hands of misogyny and prejudice. Notably, we are introduced to those who have suffered, and to those who have succeeded (often despite their suffering). It’s truly refreshing to see such a spectrum of womanhood and how individual situations can ultimately affect one’s definition of feminism.
Women Behind the Wheel is released in select cinemas on 3rd March 2023.
Watch the trailer for Women Behind the Wheel here: