CinemaDope: Shifting Gears

The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, which celebrated its 30th year not long ago, has a storied history as an advocate for the two-wheeler. Launched in 1977 by a trio of Bostonians, it quickly moved to publish bike maps and safety manuals, one of which has recently been adopted as the official bicycle driver’s manual for several states. The group has also spearheaded a number of high-profile commuter rail trail projects, and helped convince the state that bikes should be allowed on public transit vehicles—a boon for the often car-less student population. With so many fingers in so many pies, it’s almost surprising that it took them this long to tackle film.

But tackle it they do this week, in celebration of the 11th Annual Pioneer Valley Bike Commute Week. Spread out over two days in Amherst, the BikeFilmFest is a collection of films large and small about bicycling, all presented in free screenings at the town’s Jones Library. Things get underway Tuesday, May 18 at 6:30 p.m. with a short program featuring Return of the Scorcher, a 1992 film that inspired the “Critical Mass” movement (filmmaker Ted White, a local, will follow with an update on that movement). At 7:30 p.m., The Bicyclists chronicles a young man on his two-month bicycle journey from Wisconsin to Portland.

The main event, however, really happens on Thursday, May 20. Should you go, I’d suggest packing a lunch; the program stretches from morning through night, and includes documentary looks at bike facilities worldwide, the bike advocacy film We Are Traffic, and The Story of Stuff, a critical look at the consequences of our runaway processes of production and consumption. For the full schedule and an interesting page devoted to other bike-themed films, head over to


Also this week: When I’m not covering film for the Advocate, one of my sidelines is playing rhythm guitar in a local jazz band. Which might help explain my interest in DCI 2010: The Countdown, a sort of greatest-hits collection presented by Drum Corps International.

Screening Thursday evening at Hadley’s Cinemark Theater, the film showcases the best performances of 2009 and follows the top corps as they prepare for a new season of beating the skins. Musician or not, a drum corps beat will have you moving.


Finally this week, local filmmaker R. Masseo Davis, currently a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, is due to return to the area for a series of location shoots slated for use in an upcoming film. Locals looking for work as extras can contact; look for more on Davis’ film in an upcoming column.

Jack Brown can be reached at

Author: Jack Brown

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