Now in its ninth year, the Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) opens on June 17 in New York City. The festival was established in 2001 by Brendt Barbur, a San Francisco native. While riding his bicycle in New York City, he was ‘doored’ by a parked car and thrown into the path of an oncoming bus. Rather than brooding about the lack of respect cyclists receive, he decided instead to organize a celebration of bicycles through film, art and music.
Since then, this ‘niche’ festival has grown exponentially and now tours a total of 39 cities in North America, Europe and Australasia, attracting an estimated 250,000 visitors. Explaining its success, Barbur says, “The festival is very inclusive…it has made a strong effort to include folks from the art world, film world and music world. It is not an accident that many of these people in the creative worlds share our passion for the bicycle because they are adventurous, strong and enthusiastic.”
Africa’s Bicycle Culture
This year’s program includes over 50 movies from around the world. One of these is Where Are You Go (2009), which will have its world premiere at the festival. Directed by Benny Zenga and Brian Vernor, filmmakers who met at the BFF, the movie recounts their four-month cycle trip from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa, a distance of 7,000 miles. In addition to the sweeping beauty of the countries they passed through, the directors also discovered Africa’s bicycle culture.
Barbur also recommends Le Dernier Voyage de Maryse Lucas (2008), which he describes as “the poignant story of Artus’ and David’s [the directors] ride to the French town where Artus’ mother is from to scatter her ashes.”
Cycling into the Future
The festival will celebrate its tenth year and is looking to continue expanding, in particular to Africa, China and South America. “The festival expands organically, generally speaking,” says Barbur. “We know people from different cities and work them to connect the international bike movement with the local community.”
Amsterdam, the Netherlands has not been ruled out as a festival location either. Probably one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, and certainly one of the most famous, it could teach New York City a thing or two about pedal power. “This is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson coming to New Amsterdam, which is now known as New York City,” says Barbur. “Some day New York City will be a cycling city like Amsterdam.”
After New York City, the festival will tour various cities in the United States and Canada, including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago and Toronto, before heading to Europe and Australasia. A complete list of locations, dates and films can be found on the festival’s website.