Bike culture meets film cultureby Marisa Helms, Minnesota Public Radio
For some, bicycles are not just a recreational pasttime or a way to commute and save money on gas. No, for some, bikes are an obsession, a lifestyle, and an art form. You can see some of that art in the Bicycle Film Festival, which rolled into Minneapolis Thursday night and continues until Saturday.
Minneapolis, Minn. — Urban bike culture encompasses the world of customized bikes, bike messengers, bike racers, environmentalists and bike activists.
Because that culture is so strong here, the Twin Cities area is a natural market for the Bicycle Film Festival.
Minneapolis bicyclist Hurl Everstone says he's one of thousands who find freedom on a bike.
"If I'm driving a car, and I'm stuck in traffic, or waiting at a stoplight, or filling my tank with gas, I just feel...oppressed," Everstone says.
For 12 years Everstone has been marketing the phrase "Cars 'r' Coffins," selling T-shirts, publishing a fan-zine and, for the past six months, running a Minneapolis coffee shop by that name.
Everstone has a tattoo of the Cars 'r' Coffins logo on his left wrist. It's a simple, hand-drawn image of a coffin on wheels with 6-6-6 on the license plate.
"The message can come across a little heavy-handed sometimes," Everstone admits. "But for me it's a personal choice--a metaphor, really. We sit behind the wheel of a car, you drive to work, you sit your desk, you get back in your car and you drive home. And you repeat this cycle until you die."
It was for people like Everstone that New Yorker Brendt Barbur created the Bicycle Film Festival six years ago. He wanted to celebrate the positives of cycling and for the first time create an outlet for films about bikes. The festival travels to cities all over the world, including Tokyo, London, Los Angeles, and now, Minneapolis.
Barbur says his film festival documents a major movement that will help define the decade.
"I kind of think of it like the hip-hop movement in the 80s," Barbur says. "Hip-hop was an urban movement that wasn't just music. It was fashion, it was art, it was political, much like this bike movement. It's really exciting to see it and be a part of it and see it grow."
Each night, the festival is screening a full-length film about bikes, preceded by some short films. Submissions to this year's festival came from 15 countries, including Iran, Mexico, Ghana, Canada and the U.S.
One of the shorts in the festival is about the Black Label Bike Club, which is based in Minneapolis and New York. It's a documentary about an event called "Bike Kill," which, says Barbur "has jousting and all kinds of different mutant bikes. People make double-decker bikes. They weld one frame on top of the other and so you're way up and then you go up against each other and joust. It's just for fun. Some people don't mind getting hurt sometimes."
The festival is also sponsoring bike activities including what's called an "alleycat," a messenger-style race around the city with ten checkpoints.
The festival ends with a free outdoor screening of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," a film about a guy looking for his bike. Barbur says when he screened the movie in New York, people showed up in costume, some with cherry red Pee Wee Herman bikes.
What it really comes down to, Barbur says, is this: "Riding a bike is fun. It brings us back to that moment when we were a kid. That's mostly why people do it."
The Bicycle Film Festival runs through Sunday, with screenings Friday at the Bell Museum Auditorium and Saturday at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis--a free outdoor screening of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure."