The 12th annual Bicycle Film Festival opens up this weekend, and this year promises to be one of the best and most New York-centric yet. The festival features several films made right here in Brooklyn, including opening night short “Candy Rides,” which stars Jason Grisell, frontman of local electro-pop band Bubbles, and also features the requisite biking-the-Williamsburg-Bridge scene. There’s also “Brooklyn Rides,” a film which follows a group of Puerto Ricans attempting to win “Monster Track” in NYC, one of the hardest “alleycats” (underground bicycle races) in the world.
“Line of Sight,” another film dealing with the daredevil “alleycat” subculture, has been getting some attention for its daring trailer, including some deep-sea bicycling and cycling at gunpoint. Lucas Brunelle’s documentary was shot on helmet cameras and is a combination of over a decade’s worth of such recordings. Some of the daring and violent stunts performed in the trailer have worried some people, but Bicycle Film Festival founder and director Brendt Barbur insists “they’re just fooling around in the movie.” He added that Brunelle has been receiving death threats and that the festival has received many emails asking to remove the film from its roster. But Barbur never considered dropping the film. “I’ve never heard of anyone hurting anyone in an alleycat. The skill level is at the level of anyone dropping out of a helicopter and coming down onto an avalanche.”
Aside from “Line of Sight,” Barbur says that the most controversial film in the festival is a film called “Less Car, More Go,” about “a former bike racer, who rides her kids to school.” The film’s director, Liz Canning is one of several female directors showing at the festival this year. “The cycling world is pretty male-dominated. So is the bicycle film world. But the Bicycle Film Festival is not,” Barbur notes. In addition to Ms. Canning, the festival also features a biography on influential female rider and bike designer Georgina Terry. There’s also “Sister Session,” a documentary about the first women admitted to a large-scale bicycling competition, the legendary “Simple Session” in Estonia. There’s also a strong showing of international filmmakers too, like German director Bjorn Adelmaier, whose short “Im Puls” will be screening on Saturday as part of the “Urban Bike Shorts” Program.
In addition to the films, the festival hosts daily after parties, and the BFF street party on Saturday which features all kinds of New York bikers, from commuters from Williamsburg to BMX riders from the Bronx. This year’s festival will not include its accompanying “Joy Ride” art show, but Barbur admits that it has made the festival more about the filmmakers. “I really want to uplift people like Lucas Brunelle. Or Amelia Shaw who works at the Bicycle Film Festival and made a movie. I really wanted to focus on the filmmakers and make sure the programming was done well.”
The festival opens up this Friday at Anthology Film Archives, click over to the BFF website for tickets and badges. And don’t worry about locking your bike up, the festival provides complimentary “valet bicycle parking” (which in previous years has been done by Au Revoir Simone’s Annie Hart).