Bicycle Film Festival Review: The Short Films – Pt 2

Bicycle Film FestivalI did a review of the BFF as a show and of the first eight short films presented at the screening. Below are the reviews for the remaining nine short films from BFF Program 3.

Urban Bike Shorts

Pixel Gear Bikes – A short 1-minute video of 8-bit Paperboy-like bike riders doing stuff like riding in the city blowing red lights, pulling tricks and eventually crashing against a car door that opens suddenly. 1980s Nintendo synth music completes the package. Cute.

Cooking Up Bike Co-Ops in Los Angeles – This 5-minute documentary was just fantastic and represents another part of why I like film fests, the chance to see pieces that introduce people to situations they may not be aware of. The doc takes us to discover the Bicycle Kitchen, Bike Oven & Bikerowave, three different bike co-ops in LA, non-profit spaces where volunteers help people learn how to repair their own bikes, and the amazing community that has gathered around them. A short but inspiring film, you can view it in its entirety at Streetfilms.

Some Things Ride A Bicycle – Another 1-minute little animation, this one of chalk-drawn things, like an octopus, kittens, a tree or a tornado, riding a bicycle. Silly but very amusing.

What’s A Girl To Do – This video by Bat For Lashes is plain gorgeous all around. The song has this captivating ethereal quality that is expressed in the video by the dark, misty road with only Natasha on her bike in the tenuous spotlight. I have no clue whatsoever what do animal-headed BMX riders pulling tricks has to do with the song but it doesn’t matter because it works. If the photography is superb, the editing is just phenomenal; the animal riders emerge and fade behind Natasha all in the same shot with nary a cut in sight. Unexpected, but very pleased this was included in the program. Catch the whole video on YouTube.

Belle Epoch – There’s a guy in Italy that apparently one day woke up and said, “I want to ride my bike up a mountain, without using my hands, while playing four different musical instruments.” His name is Giuliano Calore, and this 3-minute film shows clips of that precise stunt, along with others he decided to do just because he could, like ride up a mountain without having a handlebar or brakes. It’s old footage, but fascinating; you find yourself joining in the crowd that lines the roads, cheering Calore on.

Ski Boys – Let us all go back to 1970s rural Ontario, Canada, and join the Ski Boys as they pass the time riding custom-built freak bikes and wheeled skis and toboggans, and jumping off barn roofs onto piles of (hopefully soft) who-knows-what. For the grand finale, check them out riding a bike up a steep ramp and flying off into a pond. Billed as the “lost reels of the Ski Boys” (I’ve no idea who the Ski Boys are, but it is the same director as Where Are You Go, shown in Program 2), this was a romp through the carelessness of childhood. See the entire film on Vimeo.

The Scraper Bike King – I learned about scraper bikes last year when someone linked me to the Scraper Bike music video on YouTube. This documentary gives us a snapshot of the creator of the Scraper Bike concept and how it has grown in his home of Oakland, California. Even if you are not into tricking out your bike with aluminum foil-covered rims, the idea of these kids (and not so kids) in such a dangerous city as Oakland finding a creative outlet is something to cheer for. I’m also glad this was included in the festival because it shows another (and the far more numerous) side of urban cycling, regular people on regular bikes, fairly often because that’s what they have as their form of transport. Scraper Bikes have become a movement far beyond the city limits of Oakland, though I’ve yet to see one in Miami. Who’ll be first?

Broadway Bomber/Bridge Battle/Monster Track – If Empire disgusted me, this pastiche by director Lucas Brunelle of three illegal bike races through the streets of New York revolted me to the core. It’s one thing to pull tricks while riding alongside traffic, but in the alleycat races depicted here, we see riders going full speed without any regard besides getting there fast and first. Riders regularly weave in between moving cars, blow intersections, zig-zag in between pedestrians and ride any kind of horizontal surface they can in devil-may-care fashion. We see riders slam against people crossing the street (including an old lady stepping off the sidewalk at a crosswalk), barely miss people stepping off a bus, and one rider try to take a red light only to wipeout when the car with the green light starts to move. I wish I could say this was a film showing the dangers of illegal bike racing, but it wasn’t; it was a celebration of (to quote the blurb on the program) “urban cycling at its finest.” Anyone who in any capacity normally works to improve the bicycling environment in their city should be appalled by the glorification of illegal bike racing and condemn it. If these had been people on racing cars instead of bikes the outrage would be through the roof, but because it’s bikes it’s ok? No. And much like with Empire, a large part of the audience ate it up, which is also revolting to me. Miami has alleycat and loose cannons races monthly, and the alleycat co-branded with the BFF was filmed by Brunelle so it might show up in 2010’s BFF, much to my distaste.

Anima D’Acciaio (Soul of Steel) – Even for someone who doesn’t really know anything about the sport of Cycling and bike racing, the name Ciocc rings a little bell. This portrait of bike builder Giovanni Pelizzoli, nicknamed Ciocc (the name he also gives to the bikes he makes), is a great window into the craft of frame-making by hand. It is when witnessing Ciocc bend over the tubes that will form the bike frame that you can truly understand how a bike can be a piece of art; Ciocc is a sculptor and steel is his medium. Even more interesting is the juxtaposition of the Ciocc, the old bike builder who’s created racing frames that have been Olympic winners (1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics), creating a new freestyle fixie for GOrilla Bicycles. It’s a shame that this angle wasn’t pursued more as it would have made a very compelling film subject.

There you go, some great, some very much not. I’m hoping the festival does return next year and we see a much wider picture of the bicycling world. Looking forward to BFF 2010.


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