San Francisco is perhaps the most bicycle friendly city in the Untied States. It’s not that we simply love bicycles or that we absolutely hate cars — and it’s not because we’re more enlightened, healthy, or intelligent than the rest of the country. According to Brendt Barbur, program director of The Bicycle Film Fest, it’s more of a practical geography issue. City planners long ago realized that our beloved cluster of fault-line supported hills would never be able to host a decent freeway system. Our roads, therefore, were mirrored after those of quaint European cities like Amsterdam and Paris. Thus, out of a simple desire to avoid catastrophe, San Francisco was forced to adopt the bicycle as its mascot and has since given birth to an amazingly complex subculture of enthusiasts — tattooed hipsters on “fixed gears” pedaling the Mission, racers in the park, scruffy messengers in the financial district, and of course the hordes of weekend warriors that swarm the city every Sunday, clogging the bike lanes, irritating the cabbies, and keeping the rental shops in business. With a bus system that, according to Barbur, is “absolutely horrible” bicycles in San Francisco are a requirement.
Although it may be true that the bicycle’s popularity was born out of necessity, it doesn’t stop the city from having an overwhelming sense of two-wheeled pride. San Francisco is home to countless bicycle-themed bars, cafes, and movie houses and there are dozens of annual festivals where the machine is celebrated. There’s bike to work day, Critical Mass, and hundreds of smaller cycling events sponsored by clubs and shops. This weekend cyclers of all stripes join forces with another group of SF traditionalists — independent film connoisseurs — to present the Sixth Annual Bicycle Film Fest, which has been traveling through a variety of cities on who knows how many wheels. There will be valet parking for all bikes and plenty of PBR on tap. Below is a list of four features and a highly recommended collection of shorts that will be playing from Sept.27 through Sept. 30.
Peter Sutherland’s documentary about life as a bike messenger on the wild and crazy streets of NYC follows a crew of rugged messengers as they engage in a battle for space with businessmen, cab drivers, and pedestrians.
2. Joe Kid on a Stingray
Narrated by “West Coast Choppers” founder and Hollywood darling Jesse James, this film takes a look at the evolution of BMX bicycles from childhood past time to extreme sport.
3. Caravan Pride/Prague
An anarchist bicycle caravan travels 500 miles across Europe to join in protests in Prague against the IMF/ World Bank.
Hip-hop auteur Jacob Septimus and renowned fine art director Anthony Howard team up to deliver this documentary about a subculture of DYI cyclists from New York known as The Black Label Bicycle Club.
5. Messenger Screening
One of the most popular screenings of the program, this collection of raw shorts is widely revered as the best in the emerging genre of “Bicycle Pornography.”
With riveting characters, cascading revelations and momentous breakthroughs, Epstein and Friedman’s work paved the way for contemporary documentary practice.
Accompanied by a program of solar system shorts, Travis Wilkerson’s 2003 look at ruthless union-busting and the rise and fall of Butte, Montana, offers eerie resonance.
Saraf and Light's work is marked by an unwavering appreciation for underdogs and outsiders.
A film on Cherokee chief Wilma Mankiller bucks biopic formula and concentrates on a pivotal moment in the leader's life.
Goldman Prize-winning environmentalists' work highlighted in short-form pieces by Parrinello, Antonelli and Dusenbery.
Mill Valley amps up the star wattage in its annual mix of local, international titles.
An East Bay filmmaker takes another look at U.S. financial woes with 'Heist,' which world premieres at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
John Turturro shares his passion for the Neapolitan songbook.