Driver [Tribeca Festival Review]

The first eight minutes of Driver are a montage of on-the-road shots from various locales. A more perfect beginning could not exist. From the start, director Nesa Azimi smartly sets the stage for viewers, establishing the loneliness and isolation of being a truck driver. Her movie world premiered in the Documentary Competition section of 2024’s Tribeca Festival, and its ability to convey as much meaning through imagery as through words marks Azimi as someone to keep an eye on.

Driver offers a window into a world most of us know little about – professional truck driving. We may think there’s not much to know. We are wrong. I learned a great deal from the movie. Azimi’s focus is Desiree Wood, the creator of an organization called REAL Women in Trucking that exists to support and advocate for women in the field. Life on the road is tough. Aside from the long treks, Desiree must maintain her own truck and pay for any necessary repairs when something goes wrong. We see her showering in a truck stop restroom, trying to eat semi-healthy meals, and sleeping in the cramped quarters of her cab. Insights into the trucking lifestyle are eye-opening.

There’s a bigger issue at play, though. REAL Women in Trucking exists because of how common sexual assault against female drivers is. They spend several weeks on the road with trainers at the start of their careers; those trainers are sometimes predatory. Other times, they’re assaulted upon dropping off their loads by the men working at the receiving bays. Desiree describes her own history of rape, and the film features other women who relay their individual stories. What we discover is that the trucking industry – run primarily by men, of course – has little interest in addressing the problem. In fact, promotions are frequently given to women who are willing to keep their mouths shut about it.

Driver similarly details how inadequate pay makes it hard to get anywhere financially. That can mean living in one’s truck, as a few of the women we meet do. Shady business practices additionally seem to be aimed at advancing gender discrimination. The bottom line is that being a trucker is hard; being a female trucker is absolutely brutal. After seeing this film, I’ll never look at the occupation the same way again.

Azimi shrewdly doesn’t try to force a narrative in here. She simply lets the narrative flow as it chooses. That makes it a shining example of cinema verité. Atmospheric cinematography from Joel Van Haren, Carissa Henderson, and Victor Tadashi Suarez palpably captures the beauty of the American landscape, but also the distinct ambiance of grimy truck stops. In both content and form, Driver is a commanding exploration of what it means to be a woman in a male-dominated field.

Driver


Driver is unrated, but contains strong language and graphic descriptions of sexual assault. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan