Cycling fans from around the UK and Europe will be flocking to Brighton for the Bicycle Film Festival this month. Coming to the Duke of York’s Picturehouse on Thurs 14 – Sat 16 July, the event is dedicated to those who share a passion for adventure, travelling, exploration and bicycles. Centered around short films from established artists to emergent filmmakers, the festival celebrates the numerous positive aspects of cycling. “Health, self-discovery, challenge, environment, ecology, community – there are so many stories for a great film,” says organiser and High & Over producer, Mark Joffe. “And story is exactly what every film director is after. I’m sure our audience will be overwhelmed with variety of subjects represented in our films.”
From its roots in New York 15 years ago, the BFF is now a multi-faceted, global event that has travelled to over 60 cities around the world, from Quèbec to Quito, Moscow to Mexico City. It started when Brendt Barbur, the festival’s founding director, was hit by a bus while riding his bicycle. Despite days in hospital he wanted to turn this negative experience into something positive. The BFF Brighton team got together while riding to Paris during November 2014. “We all come from different countries and backgrounds, but it was on that freezing morning that we realized that there is one thing that unites us all – hunger for adventure and bikes.” Now the event seeks to encourage global participation and awareness of cycling and to help promote cycling across all forms, whilst bringing together local creative communities.
The Brighton strand has worked closely with the festival’s New York headquarters to put together a programme that shows the whole spectrum of films that BFF can offer. “We tried to add films from all around the world. This year we bring a very special premier to Brighton: Personal Gold. It’s a film about the USA female cycling team’s pursuit of a medal at London 2012, following a blanket ban on the men’s team after Lance Armstrong’s revelations. It’s an underdog story of real passion and dedication towards a common goal in spite of all odds.”
The festival goes beyond viewing cycling as a sport and brings together communities and individuals with similar views on life. The Brighton BFF opening event sees The ONCA Gallery host lead writer of Boneshaker, Jet McDonald. He’ll present a multi-layered talk, applying philosophy to modern life and using the experience of a ride and the components of a bicycle to illustrate it.
Screening on Friday night, at the Duke Of York’s Picturehouse, will be Danielle Levitt’s portrait of BMXers in the Bronx Tribes, Bear – Nash Edgerton’s darkly comedic spiral of bad decisions and Damian Vondrasek’s beautifully odd The Meeting. There’s also Jean-Marc Joseph’s Cycling Circle, Orlando von Einsiedel’s King Of The Mountain, Jesse Ayles’ Revelations and Alex Rankin’s Hack Bike Derby. “The Duke of York’s is the nation’s coolest cinema. It’s also the UK’s oldest working cinema having been in constant operation since 1910. When planning BFF Brighton 2016 we all agreed the Duke’s was our dream venue. A fantastic place – we can’t wait to see our programme on their screen.”
Saturday’s offerings include Christian Mülhauser’s moonlit downhill ride at Matterhorn in Moonriders, In Search Of The Storm by Shaktiraj Singh Jadeja – a story of a biking expedition in the dead of the Himalayan winter and Cranks by Kyo-Min Jung and Tom Wichelow which looks at a bike repair shop run by volunteers in Brighton. Joining these are Izhar Cardboard Bicycle Project by Giora Kariv, Thom Heald’s Up Up Up and Lucas Brunelle Goes To Chernobyl, an exploration of the Chernobyl exclusion zone to on bicycle. Elsewhere across the weekend, there’s a photography exhibition from local curators Miniclick, a discovery ride around town organised by Rule 5 bikes and an after party at Bleach with BeNothing, headlined by eccentric-core synth-punks, AK/DK.
A rise in profile for professional cycling has helped; ambassadors like Bradley Wiggins, Chris Hoy and Peter Sagan inspire huge interest in the sport. Whilst the recent boom in the cycling lifestyle is down to many factors, an overriding attraction is its pure accessibility. “People might ride bikes to commute to work or to travel across continents. It can be very affordable and often a much more attractive option than driving. It’s always a great feeling sailing past all those cars stuck in a traffic jam on Kings Road on any given weekend in Brighton.”