Catherine Haigh and Hannah Congdon are the directors of Women Behind the Wheel – a feminist road trip documentary exploring women’s issues in Central Asia. Having premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival where it sold out both its screenings, the documentary is being released in UK cinemas by Dartmouth Films around International Women’s Day this March.
Cat went to Berkhamsted School from 2007 to 2013, and so she and Hannah are really excited to be sharing the film with the local community she grew up in. Women Behind the Wheel will be screening at the Rex cinema in Berkhamsted on Sunday 12 March.
Cat and Hannah undertake a treacherous road trip across Central Asia on a mission to uncover women’s stories in a region miles from their own. Their route brings them to the doorsteps of women from all walks of life, revealing a women’s movement that’s had as many ups and downs as the drive itself.
But along the journey, they’re forced to challenge the assumptions they set out with. Cat and Hannah start to realise that feminism exists in all shapes and sizes – and collectively, the smallest changes can amount to a quiet revolution.
Cat and Hannah told us: ‘When we set out to make this film, we’d planned on making a short film following our journey along the Pamir Highway. We were unknown filmmakers and crowdfunded a small amount of money to pay for filming equipment, with the hope of documenting our experiences and the women we met along the way. But the access we gained was unprecedented. Women reached out to us through social media, both before and during our trip, and opened up about everything from masturbation and sexual empowerment to domestic abuse and bride kidnapping. The result is a film that – we hope – feels raw, authentic and intimate.
‘The women’s testimonies we gathered repeatedly defy expectations and gendered stereotypes. We’re determined to share those stories with a wider audience, especially given this region has been significantly affected by the volatile politics of its geographical neighbours – Russia and Afghanistan.
‘We’re also really proud that our film has given an opportunity to many young female creatives – and for all it is their first feature.
‘We really feel that the stories in our film will resonate in particular with female readers – these are an extraordinary collection of inspiring, funny, contradictory and complex women who disrupt the stereotypes of womanhood in their predominantly Muslim countries. We’ve had people from all walks of life come to screenings and talk about how moved they’ve been by stories they felt they could relate to in the film.
‘And we hope there’s an added appeal of our own story of making this film, that might offer encouragement to young female filmmakers looking to embark on their first independent film. Despite the challenges of pitching an issue-driven, female-focused documentary as – then – two 25-year-old women, our film has been fully financed by public funding bodies and production companies. We’d love to share our experiences to help other young filmmakers navigate the sometimes intimidating world of the documentary market.’
You can watch the trailer here.