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MOTORCYCLE MOVIES THAT CAPTURE MOTORCYCLING
A look at the 2015 Motorcycle Film Festival
REVIEWS BY RASHMI TAMBE (PICTURED AT RIGHT)
The world of big budget movies has
traditionally had very little to offer motorcycle
enthusiasts. Since the inception of cinema,
there have been little more than a handful of
movies that told our stories or represented
motorcyclists accurately. This is why it is
so exciting to see that access to affordable
cameras, editing software and online
distribution has finally driven motorcycling
related film making out of the confines
of Hollywood studios and into the hands
of people who ride and build bikes and
understand motorcycling best. We have seen
an explosion of independent movies that
capture all that motorcycling has to offer.
The Motorcycle Film Festival in New York
was started three years ago by riders and film
enthusiasts who wanted to showcase these
movies and bring the community together for
three days of high quality movies, interviews
with film makers, and an opportunity to meet
other riders in the city. This year’s selection
of 35 films featured everything from slick
productions with significant sponsor backing
to amateur garage flicks. It was especially
thrilling to see movies made by and featuring
women and people of color, hitherto almost
non-existent in popular motorcycling culture.
Here are reviews of my favorite films from the
THE COAST TO COAST TRIAL
This is a five minute gem of a film about two
men riding across England on completely
inappropriate vehicles — Montesa Cota 315
trials bikes with 3-liter gas tanks, a top speed
of 30 mph, and of course, no seats. They ride
from Newcastle upon Tyne to the Irish Sea
through rough single-track trails, logging roads
and frozen snowscapes with minimal gear —
handlebar mounted packs, backpacks and a
homemade selfie stick. They take in their stride
the various mishaps they encounter, ranging
from overheated engines and flat tires to the
inevitable running out of fuel.
The fun, upbeat score and self-deprecating
humor makes it impossible to watch this
movie without a big smile on your face. By
the time it’s done, you want to grab your bike
and go have a micro-adventure of your own.
Filmmaker Greg Villalobos truly knows how
to say more with less as he hits the magic
formula to portray the joy of riding and having
fun with your buddies. The movie took home
the prize for the Best Short Documentary,
and deservedly so.
THE RETURN OF THE RATTLER
The premise of “The Return of the Rattler” is
simple. Four men decide to participate in the
Dirtbag Challenge held annually in the San
Francisco Bay Area. The challenge involves
building a chopper in one month for less than
$1,000. It needs to be a rideable machine that
can run at least 100 miles without breaking
down. They have a Yamaha XS650 to work
with – the Rattler from the title – but they are
complete novices at building choppers, with
no prior experience with welding or fabrication.
What could go wrong?
The movie is a riot of laughter as you watch
the bike evolve from design to final assembly.
Our protagonists cuss and laugh their way
through all the unanticipated problems they
run into. You laugh with them as they mess
up, but you also see them learning from
their mistakes, thinking through problems
and asking for help when they are stuck.
Somewhere down the line, you realize that
they have passed on to you the secret to
creating anything new.
You also get to see builds from other
participants in the challenge — a Honda
CM400 with modified beer bottles for
headlamps, a 750 Monster with a girder front
end — and understand how much the end
vision can vary between builders. The one
thing they all have in common, though, is that
they want their bike to be like nothing else on
the road. They talk about how satisfying it felt
to build something real and tangible and to
ride something that they built with their own
hands. Their firm belief is that “anybody can
do this.” By the end of the movie, you start to
This is a movie with soul. You laugh, you
learn, you grow, and you come away thinking
it’s time to go get a project bike and start
wrenching. All you need is a vision, a garage,
and a buddy or two by your side.
FIFTY YEARS OF KICKS
“Don’t assume that because people are older
than you, they’re going to be slower than you.”
This line from “50 Years of Kicks” summarizes
the message of this 20-minute documentary.
The movie follows 60-plus-year-old dirt riders
Paul Rodden and Larry Murray from Oklahoma
and Ontario respectively. Each has almost 50
years of riding experience and many enduro
championship wins, which comes across when
you see them tearing through ruts, sand, mud,
water crossings and hill climbs on their KTMs.
They fall, drop their bikes, pick them back up
and keep going.
They reflect on the old days when Husqvarna
manuals dedicated half their space to physical
conditioning for the rider, paving the way for
good workout habits that stayed with them for
a lifetime. Those habits served them well in
one of the most physically demanding sports
there is, especially as their bodies aged and
they lost core strength and balance. During
one sober recollection, they talk about a close
friend who died of a heart attack while riding
on the trails with them, and conclude that may
be the best way to go — with a smile on your
face while doing what you loved best.
Motorcycling media tends to focus on young
riders as their core target demographic. This
leaves us bereft of older role models. It is
harder for us to envision riding when we hit a
certain age because we see nobody else doing
it and doing it well. That’s what makes this
movie especially important. It drives home the
fact that we don’t have to give up our passion
as we age. Here’s hoping that “50 Years” leads
to more positive representations of old folks
riding their bikes and showing the youngsters
how it’s done.
“Discovery” is part of a series of short films
called “Stories of Bike” that explores the
relationship between motorcycles and the
people who ride them. This particular film
showcases rider Kristen Reed from New York
City, following her journey from first riding with
an uncle in her hometown in Oklahoma at the
age of 8 and resolving to someday get her own
bike, to her purchase of a Triumph Bonneville
in New York City many years later after tiring of
her Manhattan-to-Williamsburg commute via
public transportation. The movie is as much an
homage to the city as it is to Kristen, with its
lingering shots that capture the essence of its
neighborhoods and streets and the serenity of
riding through them.
Reed is a natural in front of the camera. There is
no posturing or pretense here. She talks with an
easy confidence and quiet excitement about her
journey into motorcycling, the mods she made
on her bike, and the community she found with
The Missfires, a local all-woman motorcycling
group. Most riders will watch her and think back
to their own early years of riding and recall that
first glow of happiness when they began their
love affair with two-wheeled machines. That,
after all, is great storytelling, isn’t it?
The only thing that prevents this movie from
being perfect is that Reed is never shown
wearing any substantial riding gear. For the
ATGATT among us, it can be uncomfortable to
see her riding on busy streets in just a sparkly
three quarter helmet and no other protective
gear. For a movie that could inspire new riders
to get into motorcycling, this could have been
5 CULT MOTO-MOVIES WORTH RENTING
(IF YOU CAN FIND THEM)
Most moto-junkies are familiar with touchstone motorcycle movies like “On Any Sunday,” “The Wild
One,” “Easy Rider,” and “The Great Escape.” Then there are the guilty pleasures, the cult flicks that
are far more fun than they are good. Here are a few from the fringe, perfect for your next moto-party.
Knightriders: A George Romero flick
chronicling some motorcyclists who live a
modern life of chivalry, dress in medieval
armor and stage jousts at fairgrounds. Bizarre
doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Roustabout: An otherwise forgettable Elvis
flick, except our singing troubadour is a
traveling carny who gets around on his trusty
red Honda Super Hawk. Don’t miss the angstfilled
Eat the Peach: After watching “Roustabout”
(really), two Irish friends decide to build a
traditional wall of death and barnstorm Ireland,
pursuing their dreams while attempting to
keep their antiquated Harley-Davidson 45s
running. (Actually, this is a good movie.)
Quadrophenia: A fun romp through the
complex moto-socio political landscape of
1960s Britain, where mods ride scooters, rockers
choose Triumphs, and the Who soundtrack
plays. Don’t miss rock star Sting as a bellboy.
Viva Knievel: There are two of these. The first
stars George Hamilton as our hero in a great
made-for-TV schlockfest. The second, starring
Evel himself, is a train wreck — awful, but you
can’t look away. Approach either with a good
sense of the sublime.
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