Monday, 27 July 2015

BIKES VS. CARS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Fredrik Gertten Doc Opens July 31

opens theatrically in Toronto via Kinosmith
on July 31, 2015 at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor St. W.)
with other Canadian cities to follow.

Bike Valet will be provided by "CYCLE TORONTO"
for the opening weekend screenings.

Your Valet Stub will get you DISCOUNTS for yummy treats
@ THE BLOOR CINEMA concession stand, but you

Director Fredrik Gertten will be in attendance
in Toronto for the first weekend to do Q+A’s
following each and every showing.


Bikes vs Cars (2015)
Dir. Fredrik Gertten
Starring: Rob (Crack Smoking Ex-Mayor of Toronto) Ford, Denzil (Former Rob Ford Apologist and Toronto Deputy Mayor) Minnan-Wong, Aline Cavalcante, Dan Koeppel, Ivan Naurholm, Raquel Rolnik, Nicolas Habib, Don Ward, Don Ward, Joel Ewanick, Joshua Dysart, Christina Deckwirth, Liliana Godoy, Fabio Mendonça

Review By Greg Klymkiw

We are on the brink of worldwide environmental collapse. One of the biggest culprits in this deadly folly is the power held by the transportation and energy interests which have been plunging the Earth ever-deeper into an apocalypse we might never recover from. Filmmaker Fredrik Gerrten tackled the inhumanity of the Dole Corporation and its use of poisonous chemicals in the production of fruit with his powerful films Bananas!* and Big Boys Gone Bananas!*. Now, Gertten is back with Bikes vs Cars, a terrific new picture infused with his unique, super-charged, aesthetically dazzling cinematic style of activist cinema, providing a fascinating Around the World in 80 Days eye-opener into just how people get around in some of the biggest cities on God's Green Earth.

Personally, I'm an inveterate driver of cars. So much so, that when I lived in Winnipeg, I lived across the street from a supermarket and prided myself, not on walking to gather my groceries, but, in fact, driving my car across the street to stock up on my soda pop, potato chips, cookies, frozen pizza, toilet paper and plastic Glad garbage bags. In fact, though my apartment had an in-suite laundry and dryer, I shoved all my dirty clothes into the aforementioned Glad garbage bags and drove, from the extreme sound end of the city to the north end of the city for my Mother to do my laundry for me (until my mid-30s). When she was done her maternal duties, I'd make the long trek - by car, naturally, to pick up my Downy-fresh clothing.

I have to admit that anytime I see a movie or television program with pro-bicycle losers whining about cars and how evil they are, I want to punch them in the face. That said, Bikes vs Cars is a Fredrik Gertten film and as he's not the typical documentarian, but a REAL FILMMAKER, I did indeed have to gird my loins and grit my teeth and watch it.

And yes, I'm glad I did. It's not only great filmmaking, but it did indeed provide the kind of alternate viewpoint that was far from didactic. Not once did I feel like I was being clobbered on my noggin with a bag of fucking granola wielded by some granny-glasses-adorned, pony-tailed, bearded, sandal-wearing hippie who dared refer to me as "Man."

You see, I have not been on a bicycle for 40 years. I have to admit, though, that I loved this film so much that the next time director Gertten visits Toronto I might try to interview him as we take a bicycle ride through the streets of the city once ruled by the crack-smoking Mayor Rob Ford who fought mightily during his term of office in what he perceived to be a "War Against Cars". (Maybe we will even take a bicycle ride together to Rob Ford's house in Etobicoke and, of course, the infamous crack house where he sucked back the elixir that led to his troubles.)

Oh, uh, Rob Ford is in the movie, but frankly, Gertten introduces us to a lot more interesting people than that. (Though in fairness, Ford delivers plenty of outrageous redneck comedy relief.)

Focusing primarily on the cities of Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, Toronto and Copenhagen we meet a variety of cyclists, car drivers and everyone in between. We learn about various individuals and their love of cycling as a viable mode of transport, but we also experience, first-hand, exactly how their very lives are at stake on their bikes.

Gertten captures some unbelievably terrifying footage as insane car and truck drivers madly careen through the streets, narrowly missing cyclists, cutting them off, forcing them into near-deadly situations. These sequences are so harrowing, I must admit to even biting my nails to the quick for the filmmakers being out there on the mean streets to capture this footage.

Contrasting this, though, are clearly sequences where Gertten manages to capture the sheer joy and beauty of what these cyclists experience as well. Night rides on empty streets, group rides where the sheer amount of riders create safety in numbers, children utilizing cycling as part of their curricula and, strangely enough, we even experience the adrenalin rush of cyclists blasting through the most congested streets.

Of course, no documentary is without the facts and figures and Gertten does not shy away from presenting these, but never are they strictly informational, but are woven expertly into the fabric of his narrative.

He also provides so many moments that are heartbreaking - memorials and memorial services to fallen cyclists, ghost bikes of deceased riders, affixed to posts with clutches of flowers clinging to them, urban headstones and monuments to the dead.

One of the coolest sequences is when Gertten follows a cyclist through a neighbourhood in Los Angeles and we discover the ghost-town-like remains of a massive bike transport system which once allowed 25% of the city's population bike to and from their places of employment.

Contrasting all the urban nightmares where cars outnumber bikes, Gertten follows the daily adventures of a cab driver in Copenhagen. I have to admit, even as an inveterate automobile advocate, that it was pretty funny watching this poor schlub try to make his way through the sea of cyclists and admit. more than once, that he's a man with several tons of metal in his grasp, yet he is ultimately bereft of any real power on the streets.

As this is a Fredrik Gertten film, I'd be mightily disappointed if he didn't expose us to the sad and terrible truth of the matter behind the transport industry. I suppose I could have guessed this if I bothered to think about it at all, but Gertten provides us with the historical and contemporary secrets behind the corporate lobby of car manufacturers and the oil companies. Their money and power are responsible for blatantly squelching every form of alternative transport to the point where people believe that cars are the only way.

Bikes vs Cars is yet another terrific celluloid feather in Gertten cap of cinema. I especially love how the film is structured, paced and cut. He leads you in ever-so slowly and subtly and it doesn't take long before you're hooked on the narrative threads of his subjects and the overriding subject of them all - the conflict between bikes and cars. The movie stealthily and brilliantly draws you in, but as the film progresses, his canny approach is to catch you so off guard that before you know it your sucked into a compelling tale.

The movie, and by extension, Gertten's entire mise-en-scene and editorial structure, sneak up on you. Once he and the film have you in their clutches, there's very little to do but wend your way freely through the picture, perched very comfortably on what feels like a bicycle built for two.


Bikes vs Cars opens July 31, 2015 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto via Kinosmith.

My interview with Fredrik Gertten and review of BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* HERE

My article on the crowd funding for BIKES vs CARS HERE