Pump those pedals over to the Bicycle Film Festival

The Brooklyn Paper
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In case those ads in the subway haven't informed you, or the thousands of cyclists who traversed the borough earlier this month, May is Bike Month in New York City. And to help mark it, the Bicycle Film Festival will hold its eighth event to round out the month of festivities.

About half of the BFF's audience, estimates the festival's founder and creative director, Brendt Barbur, comes from Brooklyn, the borough of cyclists, it seems. The bikers are drawn to the festivals celebration of cycling, inspired by Barbur's own riding accident about eight years ago.

"I was hit by a bus going up Third Avenue in Manhattan," said Barbur (he was banged up, but recovered). "I wanted to do something positive for bikers. I thought, what better way to do it than through movies and parties and art?"

For the festival's five days, exactly that is promised, with a party at Greenpoint's Studio B kicking off festivities on May 28. Hisham Bharoocha of Soft Circle and filmmaker Daniel Leeb collaborate on an audio/visual performance that includes sounds created from bicycle parts, electronics and live video mixing. Simon Pace of Blonde Redhead follows with an original live score set to director Jorgen Leth's film "Impossible Hour," about the Hour Track Record, one of the most prestigious records in cycling set by Eddy Merckx and attempted by Ole Ritter. That is followed by a dance party at the hip North Brooklyn venue, which hosted last year's BFF party.

"A large part of our audience is from Brooklyn, so we wanted to have an event in Brooklyn," said Barbur, who is looking to have more of the festival, primarily held in Manhattan, in the borough.

On May 29, "Dear Velo," an art show curated by Barbur and Katharine Barthelme opens at 40 Great Jones Street with work from fifteen diverse artists. The show remains up until June 2.

It being a bicycle film festival, May 20 through June 1 will feature films dedicated to cycling, with submissions from all around the world. While the festival has grown over the past several years, the films have consistently been held at Anthology Film Archives (32 Second Avenue in Manhattan), with even a valet bike service.

The short films give a chance for viewers to see how much an impact New York City has had on bike culture throughout the world.

"A lot of the movies for the longest time were made in New York about the New York bike scene," said Barbur, who gets hundreds of movie submissions from around the world, including Africa,. "Now, we we see movies from all over."

Highlights of this year's film festival include "Standing Start," about Olympian and World Champion Track Sprinter Craig MacLean, "Free Wheelies: Pedicabs of New York: An Endangered Species," a look at the longevity of pedicabs in our fair city, "The Bicycle Trial," from Argentina, an experiment in how long a bike can remain unlocked before getting swiped, and "The Six-Day Bicycle Races," an introduction to the original American form of bicycle racing, from its start in the 1880's and up to today.

Other features of the 2008 festival include a symposium on May 31 with actor and founder of Bicycle for a Day Matthew Modine, discussing his favorite bike scenes on film with some friends, and a block party that day as well near the theater, including contests, artists and other games.

While playing host to bike enthusiasts from all over the world, after the New York City festival, the BFF will move onto other cities worldwide, for 17 cities total.

"The major thing about this experience is...this is really a New York event that has had a major effect on culture," said Barbur. "One of the biggest movements this decade will be the bike movement."

As the bike movement continues to grow, with more bike-friendly initiatives implemented the city and more cyclists simply hitting the streets, Barbur is happy to provide a venue for these riders, which, while much like the skateboard and surfer cultures, did not have a space.

"A lot of people that I knew were into bikes," said Babur. "I wanted to have a place for them."

The Bicycle Film Festival runs from May 28 to June 1. For more information, including film screening schedule and ticket information, go to

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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