The Bicycle Film Festival, a traveling festival that moves through nearly 40 cities over a 6+ month period, is taking place today and tomorrow (October 2-3) in Salt Lake City, Utah. Because I live in Park City, a small mountain town just 35 miles from Salt Lake City, I contacted the founder of the BFF, Brendt Barber, and ask him about the origins of this unique traveling festival.
I understand that you were compelled to start the Bicycle Film Festival after being hit by a bus while riding your bike in New York City. Why exactly did this event inspire you to start the festival?
In 2000, I was hit by a bus on Third avenue. Though, it was obviously not the most pleasant thing to have happened, from this negative experience came the idea to create something positive that would celebrate bicycling and raise popular awareness through creative expression and having fun. So I took my love for cycling, film, and art, and combined it into the Bicycle Film Festival, an arts and cultural event that celebrates the bicycles and the community that surrounds them.
Can you explain why the festival moves from city to city rather than being in one single location like most film festivals?
The BFF is a traveling festival that runs from May through December. It is one of the largest grassroots festivals in existence that is also volunteer-based. Our headquarters is in New York and we have a local producer in each city who runs the events and helps tailor the model so it is relevant and meaningful to the community. Each city’s cycling community varies from one to the next and this is how we make it relevant and meaningful to the cyclists in each city, while maintaining the international mission to promote bicycles around the world. There are so many amazing cities in this world with rich bicycle cultures, or cities that are in need of a boost to their cycling scene, and I want to bring the festival to each and every one of them one day. For example this year, we went to Memphis for the first time. I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and thanked me for bringing this to the south and how much they needed it. It was such an honor to hear we were needed out there. I hope to hear the same in Salt Lake, another first time city.
How is the festival organized each year?
The mission is the same in each city we go to – to promote cycling through art and culture – but as I mentioned the festival always tries to incorporate elements of the local cycling culture into the festival. The way we do this is through a dedicated team of volunteers on the ground in each city we visit. I, along with the help of my staff, work with a local leader in every city, people who are involved and making contributions to their local cycling community in some way. For instance in Salt Lake City, Jonathan Morrison is leading the festival, Director of the SLC Bicycle Collective.
How are films submitted and selected? How many films are submitted vs. selected? What exactly are you looking for in the films you screen?
Each year, the BFF makes a “Call for Entries” and hundreds of films come flooding in from over 20 countries. They are selected by the Bicycle Film Festival staff, as well as long time friends of the festival – people who have been with us since the beginning. It’s a small team, and it’s a lot of fun when we’re selecting the films. We’re looking for originality. The production quality of the films gets better each year, and the competition gets tougher. But we’re always looking for something completely new, or that has a new twist, or is just fun. We’re also looking for variety. We want everything from the street race footage to the documentary on the Paralympic cycling team, from animated films to feature movies.
For more information on the Bicycle Film Festival, plus future dates and locations, please visit www.bicyclefilmfestival.com
Trailer Created by Marco Mucig. Photo by Andy Miller.