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ONGOING --Animation Block
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NYC Film Festivals

Bicycle Film Festival Rides Into NYC

By Annaliese Griffin

Despite torrential downpours that forced a change of venue and a last minute cancellation by the band Mates of State, the Bicycle Film Festival launched Wednesday night with its customary opening-night party. The festival, now in its seventh year, runs through Monday, May 21, and includes an art show, musical performances, a variety of shorts and four feature-length films before moving on to Los Angeles, Paris and 13 other cities around the world.

Nadia Litz in Monkey Warfare, one of the high-profile selections screening in this year's Bicycle Film Festival (Photo: New Real Films)

The film portion of the festival begins on Friday with two shorts and the New York premiere of Monkey Warfare, a Canadian indie that won the Special Jury Award at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Three documentaries round out the festival's longer offerings; both Klunkerz -- the Dogtown and Z-Boys of the mountain biking world -- and the world premiere of Ayamye, a film documenting a shipment of recycled bikes to Ghana, screen Saturday. Bikecar, which follows four snowboarders traveling around the northwest in a bicycle-powered vehicle, will be shown Sunday. All screenings are at Anthology Film Archives.

"I consider the biking community to be one of the biggest youth communities today, and it's very artistic," said fest founder and director Brendt Barbur, who launched the Bicycle Film Festival in 2000 after he was hit by a bus while riding his bike. He told The Reeler that the accident inspired him to improve bikers' status through creative collaboration, adding that he sees the biking community as a marginalized group limited by two general obstacles: infrastructure and status.

The infrastructure issues, like bike lanes and parking for bike commuters, are the responsibility of the city, Barbur said. But the fest's corresponding art show (Joy Ride) and its programming of titles like Monkey Warfare -- the first full-length narrative film to premiere at the festival -- push the festival beyond being a celebration of bike culture to being a full-fledged film destination. "It's a nice evolution, and I'm anxious to see how it's received," Barbur told me. "It's a leap for us, entering more into the film world. It's different ways of expressing the joy of riding. Our objective is to inspire -- not shoving it down people's throats."

Additionally, as the primary programmer, Barbur tailors the festival's short films to reflect bike culture in each of the festival's 16 cities. Shown in blocks of about 90 minutes, they are submitted by an international range of bicycle enthusiasts. "Some of the short programs can be like going to a rock show -- the people are so audible and responsive," Barbur said, also citing technology as a major boon to the festival. "It's the democratization of the medium. Anyone can go out and make a bike movie."

The Bicycle Film Festival runs May 16-21 at Anthology Film Archives. For a full schedule as well as art show, street party and ticket information, visit the festival's Web site.

Posted at May 17, 2007 1:04 PM

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