Utne Blogs > Arts and Culture

Bicycle Film Festival Keeps Rolling

 by Julie Hanus

Tags: arts, film, Bicycle Film Fesitval, Road to Roubaix, The Six-Day Bicycle races, Urban Bike Shorts, film festivals, bicycling,

BFF crowd at the Jeune Lune by Kelly Riordan.

The 8th annual international Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) concluded its Minneapolis leg this past weekend with a hefty roster of screenings at the Theatre de la Jeune Lune. For Twin Cities residents, Saturday served as a bittersweet goodbye to the venue, which officially shuttered operations at the end of June.

The BFF screens its first films tonight in Los Angeles, and gets rolling this Wednesday in San Francisco, before moving on to Chicago and Boston during the month of August. After that, the jet-setting festival will travel to Toyko, Austin, London, Vienna, Zurich, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, and Milano—before finishing its run this December back in Portland, Oregon. Here are some of this past weekend’s cinematic highlights—many of which citizens of next-up cities can partake in:

Road to Roubaix, a 2008 documentary directed by a pair of Davids (Deal and Cooper), tells the story of one of the world’s most brutal road races: the 160-mile Paris-Roubaix, which, as the name suggests, winds north from the City of Lights toward the industrial town of Roubaix, traveling along unforgiving cobblestone roads. Not all riders finish the historic race, but those who do complete the course in a single, grueling day. (The bikes take so much abuse, the filmmakers note, they’ll never again be ridden professionally.) Road to Roubaix relies on the triumph-of-human-spirit trope, but fairly so—one look at the hefty chunk of stone bequeathed to the victor, and it’s clear that riding in the Paris-Roubaix at all is a Herculean feat. Watch it for: the holy crap factor.

See the Road to Roubaix trailer here:

The Six-Day Bicycle Races, directed by Mark Tyson, is a jaunty romp through the origins of track racing, the jaw-dropping endurance cycling races that drew sell-out crowds to Madison Square Garden in the1920s. This sport phenomenon of the American Jazz Age required pairs of (handsomely paid) riders, one of whom was always on the track, to zoom about in a brutal, non-stop, no-holds-barred contest to accrue the most mileage. Hollywood and gangster glitterati would sweeten the pot for impromptu sprints by offering extra cash premiums—known as “prems”—to the winners, but the real cash was in the big race, where superstar cyclists earned enormous purses and ageless glory. Watch it for: geezers’ recollections of the sort of glamorous heyday you and I will likely never know.

The Urban Bike Shorts program offers a variety of views of cycling in the city. King of Skitch ought to be mentioned if only for the awesome, unexpected ending. (Watching bike messenger Felipe Robayo hang onto the back of a sports car and fly through New York City traffic isn’t bad either.) Pterodactyl “Polio” begins with a well-worn concept—the lone bicycle wheel, bouncing down the road—but rises to deliver a creative spin on the idea. The Trunk Boiz entertain in their music video Scraper Bikes, which is pronounced scrape-er not scrap-er, and explained here. Raven and the Bicycle Angel tracks a new biker’s determination to win the heart of (or just even a minute of conversation with) his bike-riding crush. And Fast Friday—at 27 minutes the “feature” of the bunch—does a respectable job documenting the rise of Seattle’s youth bike culture. Watch the program for: more track stands than you can shake a stick at.

Image courtesy of Kelly Riordan.

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julie hanus
7/22/2008 11:40:09 AM

Oh, you know--I should have mentioned--for more Bicycle Film Festival coverage, I also blogged about the "Fun Bike Shorts" program, specifically my very favorite short film, the awesome and hilarious WAFFLE BIKE. The blog and a YouTube video of WAFFLE BIKE are right here: http://www.utne.com/2008-07-11/Arts/Bicycle-Film-Festival-Fun-Bike-Shorts.aspx?blogid=32