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Girls Gone Wild 

Farah Goes Bang flips the script on the male-dominated road trip genre

Few things are as American as the road trip. Trekking across the country inside a rickety old vehicle with only a vague itinerary serving as guide is a time-honored right of passage, and an expression of freedom.

Traditionally, however, such exploratory trips have been an expression of male freedom—somehow women were left at home when the guys took to the highway. Maybe it's the fault of Jack Kerouac, whose classic novel "On the Road" is as much about male chauvinism as it is about the Beat Generation and freedom. More likely, though, such female exclusion in film and literature is simply a sorry hold over from centuries of a woman's-place-is-in-the-kitchen oppression.

Still, the road trip genre is a great one, if not overdone. Consider Easy Rider, The Motorcycle Diaries (also: Y Tu Mama Tambien—apparently Gael Garcia Bernal likes the open road!) National Lampoon's Vacation, Rain Man. All spectacular films but dominated by dudes. Aside from Thelma and Louise and Little Miss Sunshine the women-centric road trip films are few.

Enter Farah Goes Bang, a funny, thoughtful and refreshingly female-fronted road trip film that debuted at New York City's prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in April. The 90-minute movie follows 20-something Farah Mahtab (Nikhol Boosheri) and her two girlfriends as they travel through the Midwest stumping for Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election. Mostly though, they're looking for a good time and a man who can relieve Farah of her virginity. At Tribeca, sophomore director Meera Menon won an award as a "woman writer or director with a distinctive voice." The prize was well deserved. In Farah, Menon deftly mixes juvenile humor with issues of race, disillusionment and, of course, sex.

And it's in that way that Farah is similar to so many other sexually charged, self-exploration road trip films. Except instead of Beavis and Butthead as leads, it's an Iranian-American women and her two friends—one Indian-American, one blonde Caucasian. What remains are the fart jokes, vomiting from too much alcohol, and sexual innuendo.

Early on in the film the three women are driving their dated Volvo wagon to the next town, rehashing their dedication to Sen. Kerry and their distaste for George Bush Jr., when the driver throws Farah a pile of condoms.

"We need to get your bush out of office," Farah's friend scolds. The line gives way to chanting, "Get your bush outta offfff-ice, Get your bush outta offfff-ice." Farah's pals give her a hard time, but their collective bond is strong. They look out for one another. They hold each other's hair, bail one another out of jail, and kick the bejeezus out of any man who disrespects them. The mild violence is warranted—one sucker gets whacked in the privates after making repeated racial and sexist comments to the women as they hand out Kerry fliers on a conservative streetcorner.

But they meet nice men, too. Like the old war vet, Walter, a friendly white-haired Republican who invites Farah onto his porch for a cold beer and a honest discussion. Farah, like both of her friends elsewhere in the movie, finds it difficult to explain why Kerry is her chosen candidate. Mostly, she says, she's sick of the alternative—a relatable sentiment, especially among the college-age idealists.

Then there's the strapping lad who Farah finally beds down with. He's considerate and open-minded. He's also a soldier freshly home from an Iraqi tour. The movie is filled with these moments that ask the characters, and the audience, to reconsider their stereotypes.

It's nothing mind blowing. Viewers likely won't walk away with a new perspective on life, but Farah wasn't meant for that. It's at times surprisingly smart and guiltily funny. But mostly it's a much-needed female addition to the road trip library.

Showing at BendFilm. The complete schedule for the Oct. 10–13 film festival will be released this Thursday, at a kickoff party; 6 pm. Deschutes Brewery Public House, 1044 NW Bond St. $20 (advance) $25 (door).

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