Guest Post – Bicycle Film Festival

Greetings friends!  Please enjoy a guest post by my good friend, talented writer and cycling connoisseur,  Mr. Nick Wright.

Marquee inside the Viaduct Theater lobby

In their infinite ability to bring the bipedal together, bicycles dominated sleet-covered streets this past weekend all over Chicago.  The monthly Critical Mass took place Friday, and the Chicago Cycle Swap went down on Saturday—though for those dedicated riders, the Bicycle Film Festival packed the Viaduct Theater for back-to-back nights of short flicks featuring the urban bike culture around the world.  Word from some Active Transportation Alliance advocates I spoke with was that every cycling-related event around town was packed.  This is the first large cycling event I checked out since relocating to Chicago last month.

Front rows of the theater packed in. Extra chairs were fetched for people pouring in.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the film fest, which Brendt Barbur started in 2001 after he was hit by a bus in New York City, according to the film’s website.  By molding a near-fatal incident into a tribute of all types of riders—from nimble messengers to mud-menacing cyclocross racers—Barbur’s brain child has grown into a world affair, touring 26 cities.  The remarkable blend of films ranged from short vignettes of BMX jumps to documentaries to intimate portraits of famous frame builders.

Local riders face off in Goldsprint competitions

After Friday’s showing, local riders faced off in goldsprint competitions, where you pedal as fast as you can on a stationary bike against one another while your progress is simulated and tracked on a screen.  Think Wii bicycle, as it were.  I got winded just watching them.

Headlining films included the Johnny Knoxville and Spike Jonze-produced Birth of Big Air, the story of BMX legend Mat Hoffman’s tribulations as one of the world’s top athletes (think Evil Knievel of BMX), and Line of Sight, a tantalizing, edge-of-your-seat documentary of the best urban riders as filmed from the helmet-cam of internationally-known cyclist-cum-videographer Lucas Brunelle.  These guys aren’t Tour-de-France types.  These are the riders skid-stopping their way through oncoming traffic, literally riding the line from Point A to Point B.  What’s even more mesmerizing than the footage is Brunelle’s unflappable control of the camera as it stays on the riders as he’s trailing them through rush-hour traffic in New York.  Check out the trailer here:

Bicycle valet parking underneath the Western/Belmont viaduct.

While the program didn’t highlight much in the way of commuters, utilitarian riders, or weekend warriors, it provided a glimpse into cycling sub-cultures that many rarely see. Terry Bloom, the Chicago local producer for the Bicycle Film Fest, told me that Chicago’s next installment of the festival should be this coming Fall.  Keep your tires inflated so you can cruise over to the BFF when it rolls back into town.

– Nick Wright

Viaduct Theater
31111 N. Western Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618

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