The organisers of the Bicycle Film Festival are trying to expand the event's reach beyond the usual spoke folk. 
By
David Hull

11 Nov 2009 - 10:55 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM

The Sydney and Melbourne organisers of the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) are determined to broaden the appeal of their events beyond the hardcore helmet heads.

Andy Miller, producer of Sydney's BFF event (running from November 11-16), says this year the organisers have looked to build a higher profile outside of the immediate cycling community. In the past, he says, there was an obvious focus on more regular riders but now there's also a focus on “people who just like their bike – the casual rider”.

Entering its third year in Australia, the BFF celebrates the bicycle through music, art and film, while advocating it as a means of transport. The event features screening programs as well as cultural events such as art shows, concerts and riding contests.

“The whole festival is based on cultural events, so we're targeting people through music, art and also film,” Miller explains. “We've tried to tap into the existing community who have a bike in their garage and like rolling around, which so many of us do.”

Miller also says the festival plays a role in bringing together different types of bicycle rider. “The people who are into road bikes, fixed gear, BMX, touring or mountain biking are very different, but this festival gets everyone into the same room because, after all, we all like bikes for similar reasons,” he says.

New Yorker Brendt Barbur was inspired to found the festival in the wake of a 2001 accident when he was hit by a bus while riding his bike. Now in its 9th year, the event has grown to be held in 39 cities around the world. Following Sydney there will BFFs in Tokyo and Boston, followed by BFF Melbourne from November 26-29.

This diversity of audience and participants is the BFF's strength, according to its Melbourne producer Pip Carroll.

“Over the past three years we've spoken to every type of cyclist in Melbourne and there has been a big effort to bring in all sorts of bike riders because, while Melbourne has a very rich scene, it's very segmented. Here's a chance for them to be united by the one event,” Carroll enthuses. “It's about having a good time and emphasising some of the positives of being a cyclist in a way that isn't prescriptive or banging people over the head.”

Carroll also hopes the BFF can help increase perception of the bike as a trendy mode of transport. “A lot of cycling, particularly in Melbourne, is about lycra and middle-aged men who spend thousands of dollars on their bikes, so it's a bit daggy; then you've got this whole other scene where people ride because it's easier to get around and it's linked to fashion and culture.”

BFF screenings will take place at Sydney's Chauvel and the Palace Kino Cinema in Melbourne. The line up includes feature presentations in addition to extensive shorts programs. The stand-out film at this year's BFF is the 75-minute Canadian feature Where Are You Go (screening in Sydney on November 13 and 15 and in Melbourne on November 26 and 28). This is the tale of co-directors Benny Zenga and Brian Vernor, who spent four months travelling between Cairo and Cape Town en route with the Tour d' Afrique, the world's longest bicycle race and expedition.

Also screening at both events (November 14 in Sydney; November 26 in Melbourne) is I Love My Bicycle: The Story of FBM Bikes. Directed by Joe Stakun from the US, this 75-minute documentary focuses on the success of Fat Bald Men owner Steve Crandall, who as a 17-year-old in the early 90s started the DIY bicycle company in reaction to big business BMX companies. The film follows FBM through its 15 years of existence drawing on the reflections of Crandall and BMX icons such as Dave Mirra and Mat Hoffman.

Other highlights include the Spanish documentary 7 Deserts (director: Uri Garcia), a 53-minute documentary that follows Sergi Fernandez on his intense solo journeys travelling by bicycle through the world's largest deserts, and the short Made in Queens, about a group of Trinidadians who entertained crowds in Queens, New York, with imaginative stereo systems rigged to ordinary BMX bikes.

In support of the main festival, the Melbourne organisers will also be showcasing local short films on November 13 and 14 at Thornbury-based Human Powered Cycles. This program will feature a range of styles including animation, documentaries and film clips. One of films to be screened is Isobel Knowles' I Fell of My Bike, a series of hand-drawn and computer-animated biking mishap stories, inspired by the filmmaker's own personal flight over the handlebars.

Carroll says that the organisers felt it was important that local cycling culture was represented in the film screenings, as it already is in other elements of the festival. Both she and Miller are keen for Australian-made films to be part of the main film program in future festivals.

“The majority of the films are made specifically for this festival by people who are very into cycling and there's great opportunities for a filmmaker because it's an international festival so films get screened all over the world,” Carroll says.

“I think the festival itself is a really big motivator for people to make films and it's up to us to be reminding them and make sure they're inspired,” Miller adds. “There's some great Australian filmmakers that we've spoken to who didn't necessarily know that the opportunity was there.”

For more information visit www.bicyclefilmfestival.com. The film entry deadline for next year's festival is February 17, 2010.

Additional links:

Spokes and Spools: Cycling on Screen