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Cycling Shorts: Short Documentaries About Bicycles [DVD]  [NTSC]
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What is bicycle culture? It's what you make of it. Anything can happen: Activists educate the policymakers. Bureaucrats create whimsical public art. Strangers help each other move house by bike. Corporations turn their drive-thrus into bike thrus. Joe Biel's short movies explore all these phenomena and more as he follows the emergence of modern bike culture over the last ten years of riding the streets of U.S. cities and meeting the characters who are making the magic happen.
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As a record of change it records the changeover from motorized to human-powered transportation. It shows how change occurs and change cannot wait until a talented documentary company comes to record it. This is a cultural artifact documenting change at the grassroots level that was shot by people in the trenches of social change. In the 1960s the ideology of social change hop-scotched between college campuses in underground newsletters. 21st century social change spreads in DVDs and web-page postings. Gas is never going to go down in price and with each price increase more people are going to start riding their bicycles. It records interviews with city traffic engineers, members of Portland city council as well as recording protests and identifying specific "pinch-spots created by Portland traffic planning. If you are an activist this is a video handbook recording Portland's transition to bicycle transportation, one of the premiere bicycle-friendly cities in America.
As a movie it is a pretty bad, low budget by-product of reality TV in an age of media frenzy where everyone is so hungry for social change that it no sooner starts but that it gets stared to death by hundreds of cameras gathering like a piranha feeding frenzy to feed the idle masses hungry for entertainment. Rising to fulfill such a need are two well-meaning college-age activists who get themselves a video camera and make a series of short documentaries about the politics of transportation at a time when diminishing oil reserves push people into riding a bike only to discover that THERE IS NO PLACE FOR THEM TO RIDE in modern cities. Many of the shorts are relatively poor and what you would expect out of low-budget amateurs. Instead of smooth edited scene transitions the camera sweeps wildly as the cameraman turns around to see what is behind him. The camera constantly bobs slightly. With a number of "man on the street" interviews too many speakers are drowned out by traffic. Without any dramatic suspense to hold the viewers' attention the scenes are relatively slow moving.
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