New Yorker Brendt Barbur
was hit by a car while riding his bike in the city. During his stay in the
hospital, the finance professional came up with the idea to start a film
festival. The submissions could be all about bicycles, from any creative
perspective, he reasoned, with the aim to make the world a safer place for
those who can't get enough of life on two wheels.
year, he rented a movie theatre to screen the work of a small group of
enthusiastic contributors. More than a decade later, the festival has expanded, with films,
exhibitions and events making appearances in more than 20 cities the world
over, from Athens to Vienna.
the first time, the Bicycle Film Festival
is making a pit stop in Hong Kong –from
10 to 13 January – and avid cyclist Brian Fu is the reason why. Though the Hong
Kong native works for a small chain of Japanese cafes by day, bikes are his
true love, nurtured during a decade-long stint in the US. Upon repatriation in 1993, he brought his passion back to
was eager to host the festival, it was a pipe dream for five years because the
cost of renting out a venue was just too high. Plus, cycling culture
in Hong Kong -– at least when it comes to purposeful transportation, rather
than a leisurely weekend pedal – is nascent at best. "Hong Kong people
grow up to be scared of cars because the streets are so narrow, and they're not
brave enough to ride a bike around urban areas," Fu explained.
"They'll do it for exercise, or they'll do it for fun. It is getting better."
to the Hong Kong Arts
Centre in Hong Kong's Wan Chai neighbourhood, Fu finally found an
affordable, centrally-located spot to host the festival.
of mostly new short films, their provenance ranging from the US to Estonia,
Japan and New Zealand, the movies (running from 11 to 13 January) have been
sorted into six screening groups, ranging from disparate works tied together by the theme of cycling
to a documentary-style tale of the late Swiss cyclist
Bruno Risi. Other highlights include a 2010 short, Mark on Allen by director Spike Jonze,
which chronicles what happens when one of the world's best professional
skateboarders tries to master riding a bicycle.
addition, the Arts Centre will play host to two exhibitions, one of
cycling-related photography; the other of local collectors' rare and vintage
bikes, which both run till 25 January.
The line-up of events also
includes – both on 13 January – an auction and raffle
of cycling and skateboarding paraphernalia whose proceeds benefit Orbis, a non-profit
dedicated to raising awareness about eye care and fighting preventable
blindness, and a communal 12km
"fun ride" –
with special guest Barbur from the Hong Kong
Film Archive. The ride will begin in the Sai
Wan Ho area and end at arts
space/basement club XXX Gallery in the Sheung Wan neighbourhood.
As well as attracting local film buffs, Fu's goal is to keep raising the
profile of biking in Hong Kong. He's set a precedent with such past events as an
Cat Race in August 2012, where participants act like bike couriers and see
who can cycle the fastest through 10 assigned checkpoints, as well as a
December 2011 Goldsprint
race, in which competitors pedal furiously on stationery bikes for 500m to gain
know it's a big risk to do this, but I still want to try to spread the cycling
culture to the Hong Kong people," Fu said. "I think it will take a
long time for local people [to grasp] that biking can be a form of
transportation – maybe until the gas is too expensive to buy."
to each screening group are 75 Hong Kong dollars and can be bought
from Hong Kong booking agent Urbtix. The
exhibitions are free, as is the communal ride, but since the deadline has
passed to enter, pick a spot along the route to cheer or meet the
cyclists afterwards at XXX Gallery (B/F, 212 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan) for
the charity event.
Hana R Alberts is the
Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel