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Bicycle Film Festival: Fun Bike Shorts

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: arts, film, short films, bikes, Bicycle Film Festival, Waffle Bike, Tom Sachs, Balorda,

Waffle Bike is a “fully weaponized, mobile, waffle-making machine.” It’s also the name of a short film—documenting the bike’s maiden voyage in search of chickens, naturally, to lay the eggs for the batter—that played last night as part of the Minneapolis leg of the Bicycle Film Festival. The “Fun Bike Shorts” program offered 15 films in all, most clocking in well under 10 minutes.

In Waffle Bike, a perfectly clipped narrator chirps out Waffle Bike’s features, which include a Honda Harmony en2500 generator, a 9-inch Norweigan waffle maker, a small refrigerator up front, a tape deck (which plays through three 8-inch, 25-watt, all-weather trumpet horn speakers made in China), and two 12-gauge homemade shotguns. The film is charming and disturbing and funny—and the bike is the work of Tom Sachs, an artist who is also credited as the film’s director along with the Neistat Brothers.

While I was watching the film—maybe the sight of a lingonberry-topped waffle made me hungry?—I couldn’t help but think that short film programs are like tasting menus, except better, because instead of plowing through a dozen courses all prepared by a single chef, you get an erratic and wild tour, each course crafted by a different individual. Waffle Bike was an obvious crowd pleaser, but there were other gems in the batch, such as Balorda, from directors Luca Bedini and Marco Brandoli, which chronicles a three-day, wildly costumed, bacchanal bike ride that takes place annually in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. “We only have Lambrusco. No Gatorade. We only have pork. No energy bars,” a caped commentator declares, as the camera cuts to a gigantic cauldron of shredded meat.

Also not to be missed: My First Time, by S.C. Durkin, which splices interview footage of people recalling, well, their first time, to great comedic effect. Faster from Jeff Stark is a slick, two-minute glimpse of a biker racing against a New York City subway train, and in Jim’s Lines, Patrick Trefz documents a rider who drags a rake behind his bicycle and constructs elaborate, transient art in the sand of a beach. The only real disappointment of the bunch was the closer: Standing Start, 12 minutes of footage of Olympian track sprinter Craig MacLean, over which a narrator dramatically recounts some sort of Odysseus-based tale. It was a stunning misfire at the end of a series of films that otherwise served to surprised and delight.

The Bicycle Film Festival continues tonight and tomorrow in Minneapolis, before heading westward to Los Angeles, next up in a roster of 14 more U.S. and international locations. If you can make it to one of the festival stops, do so. Otherwise, you’ll have to be satisfied watching Waffle Bike on the not-so-silver screen: