When a festival’s event finishes on lower St-Denis and the next one happens in Lafontaine Park about 2 kilometers away, it’s not generally a foregone conclusion that most of the audience will make it to both. That changes when traveling from one spot to another is an event itself. That was the case last night at the Bicycle Film Festival.
The BFF started nine years ago in New York City and currently holds 39 different events worldwide. This is the festival’s first edition in Montreal. It’s a three-day affair which may be smaller than some of the other fests, but it’s still full of bicycle-related things to do.
It features screenings of bicycle-related movies at the NFB Cinema on St-Denis, a series of bicycle-related shorts combined with a barbecue (from a bicycle equipped with one, no doubt) in Lafontaine park, group bike rides through the city like the one last night that brought people from the first event to the second one and even Bicycle Polo.
scene from Where Are You Go
Last night’s program at the NFB began with two shorts. Made In Queens by Joe Stevens & Nicolas Randall showed the ways some of the youth in the New York borough have really pimped out their two-wheel rides (think giant speakers and a DVD mixer attached to a BMX). Thoughts On My Bike used watercolor drawings to illustrate filmmaker Andrea Dorfman’s views on her bike, bikes in general and the environment.
The feature of the evening was Where Are You Go, a very interesting documentary by Benny Zenga & Brian Vernor about the annual Cairo to Capetown bike race across Africa. The filmmakers were on hand for the screening and to take a tour around the city with their tall bikes, one of which we see being made in the film.
The Cairo to Capetown is much more than a race, though, just as this documentary is about much more than bikes. It’s about the different cultures and landscapes encountered and the different people who are making the journey. Real world politics even make their way into the film as the group is forced to fly over Kenya due to political turmoil.
The festival is also about more than bikes. It’s about bicycle culture and all of its diverse aspects. The shorts screened in the park exemplified this diversity. There was everything from videos of people doing tricks with BMXes and using traffic as an obstacle course to mini docs about the Bikes Not Bombs program and its benefits to some comedic bicycle fiction including the absolutely hilarious 80s short On Time by Ari Taub.
Some of these shorts are being screened again tonight along with new ones as part of two programs at the NFB, 1564 St-Denis, one starting at 6pm and the other at 8pm. This will be followed by an after party at Bikurious, 1757 Amherst, starting at 9:30pm. Tomorrow there will be another bike ride leaving from Phillips Square (St-Catherine and Union) at 6:30pm (meeting time is 5:30pm) followed by an in-store cocktail party at the Little Burgundy Shoe Store, 1127 Ste Catherine West, at 9pm.
If one thing is certain, it’s that Montreal is a bike-friendly city. It’s no surprise that a festival like this will do well here. The only surprise is that it didn’t get here sooner. Now that it’s here, it won’t be surprising if it continues to grow year after year.