Sydney Bike film festival – reviews

The film festival is behind us for another year and it’s time for my annual reviews of the bike films!

Before I even start the reviews quick story. This year I missed out on buying season passes like I normally get for the BFF. So on Friday night I had no tickets and was on the waiting list and I made it into both sessions! On Saturday I had tickets to the first session and second session but needed one extra to the second session. Big thanks to all the crew of the BFF for doing their very most to make sure everyone on the waiting lists got into the sessions. Much appreciated by everyone so thank you!

First session Friday night

  1. All in my head – mountain bike film, was kinda cool, I liked the lone drummer. See it here
  2. A new challenge – quirky short film about making a tandem unicycle. Was quite funny to see them go through the design process to see how this would or even could work.
  3. Travis Collier “Night Riding” – joining a BMX rider as he goes through the streets, alleyways and carparks of Vancouver. Riding and musing as to why he enjoys the solitude of the night ride. Had a nice slow steady pace and a peaceful calm that anyone who has ever ridden at night will instantly identify with. See the clip
  4. Inside Kenk – I’d read the stories about Igor Kenk and how he had managed to amass thousands of stolen bicycles in warehouses but to see the scale of what he had done was more than what your imagination can think. Interesting story telling technique from the initial 2 guys who started following him, to bringing in a journalist and then artists it felt like a story that needed to be told but also made me feel a bit sorry for Kenk. He is obviously out of step with this world and how he reacts to the doomsday he sees coming is quite fractured. Can only hope that once the full animation/story is done his side gets told in a non exploitative manner. Clips here
  5. You only live once – honestly I can’t even remember this one so am not sure if that says it all or not? Clip here
  6. Erik Elstran’s Dragon Shredit! – one of the highlights of the festival. Great film made by two brothers and the crazy quirky tricks they perform on their BMX’s. Unlike any other BMX film I’ve ever seen as it wasn’t about the most difficult trick or biggest air but you could see the sheer enjoyment and fun they were having with it. Highly recommended. Can be viewed here
  7. Birth of Big Air – now I was pumped for this film before it even started! Am a huge Mat Hoffman fan and even own a Hoffman condor signature BMX so I was ready to be entertained and wow I sure was. Telling Mat’s story from a little kid getting his photo in a magazine and just thinking that everyone did what he did to pioneering so many tricks, so much of the style of modern BMX and how he’s fought to not only keep BMX alive but sometimes to keep himself alive was really inspiring. The only thing that could have made this better was to see it on an even bigger screen. Trailer here

2nd session Friday night

  1. On time – I’d seen this story of a courier in New York in the mid eighties before, but it is fantastically cheesy and makes you smile so it’s always worth a viewing. If you like Rad and Quicksilver then this one if for you.
  2. Belle Epoch – again have seen this one before, but getting to see the Stelvio pass on the big screen is always cool as is seeing anyone riding no handed, playing an accordion, riding one  footed and all other manner of strange feats. Not the right clip but very similar footage here
  3. Some things ride a bicycle – beautiful chalkboard animations, my favourites were the octopus and the kittens!
  4. Courier Effect – telling the story of courier’s living around the world, very enjoyable and a crowd favourite as a big cheer went through the crowd when an Aussie courier living overseas got applause.
  5. Barend Jam – totally looked like a bunch of kids made their own home movie of their event they put on themselves and it looked like fun! Just riding for the fun of it with your mates and making a movie, everyone should be as lucky to get to experience that.
  6. Empire – this was the Australian Premiere of the much anticipated Empire. Following numerous couriers, fixie riders, fixed gear trick riders through the streets of New York. It was beautifully shot and had lots of good angles and effects but was just too long. Each rider was introduced by only their name on the screen. Nothing about them, what they do or why they ride and then just overly long segments following their riding. Was good but could’ve been so much more impact if it was cut to half or third the length and had a teeny bit of voiceover or introduction so you felt a little bit more connected to the action? Also to pair it with the earlier session of jaw dropping amazing BMX made much of the fixed gear tricks look well small. I know it’s just an emerging genre and they are trying but next to the quality of Hoffman on a BMX it just didn’t cut it. Trailer here

Summer Sprints were on at the afterparty but I needed some sleep and had a few more products to finish off before the streetfair the next day so sadly I gave them a miss.

Saturday kicked off the street party which was lots of fun, for the full wrap up you can check out my write up from earlier in the week here.

First session Saturday night

  1. Constant Movement – I love the films like this that show the ingenuity of riders all over the world who don’t have access to the latest and greatest parts and make their bikes in this case their bike taxis work. Just wonderful.
  2. Le Cycliste – cute short film about a girl playing with toy cyclists.
  3. Mini Bike Winter – when this film started I was thinking oh no this is going to be terrible. It started with a gladitorial like fight on bikes and weird armoured contraptions. It was bloody and gross and just not very nice to watch. Then it turned it all around and showed adults riding kids bikes downhill and riding them into plastic pylon tub type containers being the human bowling ball. Suddenly it was quirky and cute and looked like fun! Check it out here
  4. Macramento – looked like all the other Macaframa films just set in a different city. Interesting but not groundbreaking. See it here
  5. Riding the long white cloud – was looking forward to this as we had some friends go touring in New Zealand earlier this year and it sounded like a great way to see such a beautiful country. This film did not disappoint. Quite why a bunch of skateboarders who had never ridden before decided to go bicycle touring carrying their tents and riding from place to place from one end of the country to the other searching for places to skate is not known, but am so glad they did because it was such a human journey. As they struggled up the hills, celebrated finding cooling waterholes and enjoyed the wonder that is hot springs on a beach and compared prune like hands after riding in the rain was thoroughly enjoyable and I wish the movie was longer it was so good. See the trailer here

Second session Saturday night

  1. Erik Elstran’s Dragon Shredit! – a repeat but well worth repeating.
  2. We’ve got it on tape – Bike Polo in action and action packed it was. Combing sounds and footage from across the world it was super exciting and got big crowd reaction from the local polo players.
  3. Tokyo Jitensha – just made me want to go back to Tokyo. Lights and time lag camera captured Japan in motion perfectly.
  4. RIH– one of my favourite films of the all the programs this year. The story of a frame builder using traditional techniques who found out that is exactly what he was meant to be doing on one fateful day in primary school. Swoon! that’s my kind of story. Clips here
  5. Day Labour – super funny as messengers start to get Day Labourers to ride their bikes for them and how that started an entire evolution of job hiring. Funny and smart it was really good.
  6. Grime Presents – Wonka and Mike Schmitt talking about themselves. Is nice that they are trying to push their sport and try something new but this film was totally uninspiring.
  7. Tokyo to Osaka – I’d read about this one last year as a bunch of fixie riders were going from Tokyo to Osaka at a similar time to the CWMC’s were on in Japan. Was pretty cool, by far the most interesting character was the Japanese businessman who took time off work to lead them part of the way. His story of riding his father’s track bike which was ridden in Olympic qualifiers and how he was eternally trying to catch his father was a side note in the film but honestly he was so gripping that his story could be a film all on it’s own. See clips of the film here
  8. Mini Velodrome de Bordeaux – am not sure why but this wasn’t shown?
  9. Lucas Brunelle Line of Sight – Brunelle’s films of messengers racing through the city streets are stuff of legend but this was the first time someone has turned the camera on him. Was a good insight into how he works, captures the images and the riding of the messengers was of such a level that yesterday when I went back to his site and looked at other of his films they look tame compared to this new one. I flinched alot as they went through traffic and laughed at their antics and held my breath when I saw the collisions and marvelled at their speed and agility. Fantastic end to the program. Trailer can be seen here

Sunday night’s session down in Bondi was a greatest hits of the last 10 years of the BFF and I had seen all the films being shown. Combine that with lots of work on at the moment I had to miss the sessions but I know some of those films were super fun and sure to be crowd favourites.

Highlights – Birth of Big Air, RIH, Touring the Long White Cloud and Lucas Brunelle Line of Sight. Great to see lots of good BMX on the big screen.

Lowlights – lack of variety in the films. No road cycling, no cyclocross, barely any track cycling or touring. Would’ve liked to have seen some more of the quirker style films that have been big hits in past years like animated films, stories of people and how they ride/use their bikes. This year was lots of fixed and while that’s fine it’s only a narrow section of what’s out there and I want to know more about all kinds of cycling.

Lack of BVP (bike valet parking) was also a downside. It’s always so nice to be able to ride to the cinema and leave your bike safely while you head inside. Added bonus that the BVP really turns heads and becomes a drawcard in itself as people stop to find out just why there are so many bikes parked? The fact you can fit so many bikes in such a small space is also a big eye opener for much of the general public.

More stories from the Sydney BFF later in the week.


3 responses to “Sydney Bike film festival – reviews

  1. Hey Susan, Thanks for the comments. I too share your thirst for more variety. We actually had programmed a slightly different selection of films to appeal to the wider rider i.e a cyclocross film and another about the Race across America, but were overruled at the last minute. I also agree about Empire; watching the same things done by different riders is only enjoyable for so long. I felt like some of the intro clips were far more interesting than how the action was actually shot. I did enjoy seeing the kids trick the buses though 🙂 But, I guess each to their own which is what the BFF tries to do. i.e Some of us might love a cyclocross film but others wouldn’t, in just the same way of Empire.

    I really enjoyed the Sat night program of both sessions. By far my favourite. Loved Mini Bike Winter and Riding the Long White Cloud.

    I do enjoy a film with a narrative.

    And we always intended to have BVP at all events though the council’s loooooong requirements with RTA beat us in the end. Still had fun going rogue taking Fiona’s lead with the carparks 🙂

    Need to get more local content next year. Perhaps a film about a femme fatale in a cape??


    Josh Capelin
    Producer – Bicycle Film Festival Sydney

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Sydney Bike film festival – reviews | Rocket Fuel – Vintage Cycling Style --

  3. Wow ! this is great! I love this! Great blog!

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