Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bicycle Film Festival: Scraper Bikes and Trini's with BIG SOUND Bikes

The Bicycle Film Festival came to Seattle and it was a fun event with a stoked crowd full of messengers and other young-to-my-fifty-plus-self folks. Crowd reactions to the dozen or so short films was an integral part of the show.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I had very mixed feelings to one theme. There were ALOT of shots (in several of the films) of cyclists on fixies blasting through traffic--day and night--and barely running over pedestrians as they snuck through seams in the traffic. Don't get me wrong: it was beautiful, almost like watching a corpuscle squeeze through a narrow vein under a microscope. But it was dangerous to the public too. I admire the skill even as I cringed with concern and delighted in the drama. Very mixed. Also, just too much of the same thing.

Here's the Seattle Times' take. When it comes to bicycling, Seattle has so much P-envy (Portland envy as the emcee told us), that it makes a Seattlite like me want to groan.

The show stealers for me were the kids. Not just any kids. Kids of color and immigrant kids in tough neighborhoods. Bicycles and their imaginations and their sticking together are probably saving their lives.

Check out these Scraper Bikes. These kids (10 - 15 years old?) modify old hand-me-downs and turn themselves into a colorful tribe with a wonderful spirit of adventure and kid-fun. One the one hand, they are as unselfconscious as kids playing anywhere. On the other, their fun is a political refutation of the kinds of things kids in their circumstances get lost in, and they know it. It is intentional and prophylactic fun. Bittersweet, but better than bitter only.

Like Bicycles? Love loud music? Wanna be outrageous? Cool. Let's add HIGHpowered speakers and island music right onto our bicycles--even if it then weighs 300 pounds--and go cruisin'.

And who better than the young immigrants from Trinidad and Tobago? Trinidad and Tobago (two islands as one nation just off the coast of Venezuela) is where steelpan, calypso, soca, and limbo were invented. Quite a musical pedigree.

Here are the stars of that film, Made in Queens. I loved their understated yet very loud love of music and bicycles.

Again, they found one another and formed a tribe. Very endearing.

I visited Trinidad and Tobago a while back, but unfortunately not during Carnival. It's a fascinating place. According to Wikipedia, the largest ethnic group are the Indo-Trinidadians who were Indians brought to the islands as indentured workers to replace the freed slaves who refused to work any longer on the sugar plantations.

Tourism is big now, and the Scarlet Ibises returning to roost every evening at sunset is one of the world's wonders. Go here for one take on that.

Queens is a long way from Trinidad and Tobago, but the young men and women in the film remind us about our tribes and tribal music.

Keep it close,


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