Bike Reels

Cycle-Centric Film Fest Rolls Into Town

Still from With My Own Two Wheels, a film scheduled to screen at the Bicycle Film Festival of Montreal

In 2001, Brendt Barbur was hit by a bus while riding his bike in New York City. Instead of protesting or starting an advocacy group, he founded the Bicycle Film Festival, a channel for cycle lovers to exchange their experiences through music, art and film.

Since then, the festival has expanded from one to 39 cities worldwide, kicking off its third year in Montreal this Sept. 1 to 3.

For Marissa Plamondon Lu, this year’s BFF Montreal organizer, the festival brings people together, regardless of their differences, for the love of cycling.

“What makes the BFF Montreal interesting is what makes Montreal interesting. Anglo and Franco communities coming together with one common interest: the bicycle,” she said. While most festivals strive to be fully bilingual and cater to both communities, the linguistic barriers are being ignored, in a constructive way, at the BFF.

“A lot of the movies we are showing are not subtitled,” said Lu. “It’s more about what the riders are experiencing on film, it doesn’t matter what the narration is or what the riders are saying. It’s about the feeling. It’s a story of transportation or the bike as an art form, and that can be expressed in English or in French.”

Jen Whalen, a producer at the BFF Headquarters in New York, believes that these feelings can make change happen from the inside out.

“I think that [the BFF] has already changed the world,” she said. “It really empowers communities around the world. It changes people’s lives.”

But as a festival, BFF takes upon itself to celebrate, and not necessarily advocate.

“BFF is not in it for advocacy as much as we are in for arts and culture,” said Whalen. “We decide to remain more as an arts and culture event than an event with a political agenda. There are groups involved that do, but we are more a celebration of a love for the same thing.”

To participants, this celebration becomes a strong bond with a community that is both local and universal.

“I hope people come out and realize that when they go to BFF it’s not just any film festival,” said Lu. “You are with people in your community and extending your family. You can go anywhere in the world and make a call [to another BFF attendee], and you will have a place to stay and someone in Amsterdam or Tokyo might lend you a bike. It’s a good time and a way to extend your community to the world.”

The festival will kick off with this Thursday with the exhibit, Invented: The Work of Giuseppe Marinoni, on one of the most famous Canadian frame builders.

“This is very special moment on Canadian and Quebecois bike history,” said Lu. “Just getting people to say thank you for what he has done. He’s never been a Gary Fisher [one of the inventors of the mountain bicycle] or anything; he’s just a hard worker.”

Invented: The Work of Giuseppe Marinoni, will open on Sept. 1, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at 180 Ste. Catherine St., 2nd Floor.

This article originally appeared in Volume 32, Issue 01, published August 30, 2011.