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WHISKEY, LEATHER AND CELLULOID
The 2016 International Motorcycle Film Festival
Story by Deme Spy
Engines roared. The growl of gods and outlaws resonated deep in your gut; the moto-erogenous act of a twist of the wrist repeated to redline climax.
Auditory overload faded into a buzz as you walked into The Gutter, a Williamsburg bar where a Glenfiddich felt right at home with leather and carbon fiber. The venue of this year’s International Motorcycle Film Festival was a place where you could bowl in between film blocks, or ogle the custom beauties lined outside.
Like a motorcycle speakeasy, an unassuming door opened into a screening room as unpretentious as a yard built SR400
An attractive, grungy lass directed me to a back area past a row of bathrooms. Like a motorcycle speakeasy, an unassuming door opened into a screening room as unpretentious as a yard built SR400. From narratives, animation and documentaries to experimental shorts and feature films, an indy-minded ethos permeated the Festival’s very celluloid.
The 60-second shorts were like haikus for motorcyclists. Boutonniere is a quirky film within a film about a fallen biker’s girlfriend who got his friends to rebuild his wrecked bike. While her ride at the close of the film could inspire tears, the behind-the-scenes antics of its producers, the Handsome Asians Motorcycle Club, inspired chuckles and facepalms. They were just as entertaining in person. That you could approach most of the filmmakers after a screening underscored how awesome the IMFF’s intimate format was.
host John Hensley brought a black-and-grey rock 'n roll bravura to the event’s oil and chrome tattoo rainbow
Full-length documentaries like Mancini, The Motorcycle Wizard were rare treats. Looking under the skirts of the seemingly monolithic FIM, the film reveals just how homegrown motorcycle racing is. Through a series of interviews with Italian MotoGP guru Guido Mancini--and with disciples that included Rossi, Capirossi and Dovizioso--Mancini offers a fascinating firsthand account of the sport.
Iterations of the road trip adventure abounded, all as epic and meaningful to their protagonists as the Long Way Round was to Boorman and McGregor
Hailing from LA, host John Hensley brought a black-and-grey rock ‘n roll bravura to the event’s oil and chrome tattoo rainbow. When asked about the IMFF, now in its 4th year, Hensley’s head shuddered like a kickstarted V-twin, and a thousand explosions a minute were harvested into an idle that contained all potentialities within: “I’m impressed with how diverse the films are . . . even though they’re all about the same thing.”
From the proliferation of female bikery to the first multiracial 1%er club, current and relevant themes in motorcycling were intertwoven with timeless and universal ones. Take None Give None is a retrospective about the first racially integrated ‘outlaw’ club, driven by narratives of the Chosen Few’s elders.
The films may have had different themes, but the same universal messages . . . the motorcycle can act as existential medium, therapist, confessor and transformer
Sages and keepers of their tribe’s memory, they resembled every generation that’s reached the end of its hard, asphalt journey. They shared triumphs, regrets and life lessons, remembered fallen brothers, and voiced concerns about a new, wilder generation.
Iterations of the road trip adventure abounded, all as epic and meaningful to their protagonists as the Long Way Round was to Boorman and McGregor. With themes as varied as healing, camaraderie and family, the GoPro revolution brought us along on rides across the Outback, Canada, Central Asia and the U.S. Among the most memorable was Arrows of Fire, a father-son ride with mates across the heart of Australia that resulted in calamity and tested their bonds in the deepest of ways.
What awaited you outside . . . was what local gearheads call Rider’s Alley, Brooklyn’s mecca of iron, gas and thunder
The films may have had different themes, but the same universal messages were interwoven throughout: independence, exhilaration, challenge, farce, living in the moment . . . and how the motorcycle can act as existential medium, therapist, confessor and transformer.
What awaited you outside The Gutter was what local gearheads call Rider’s Alley, Brooklyn’s mecca of iron, gas and thunder. Garages and alleyways were its temples. Exhaust and fumes its incense. Bobbers and choppers its vimanas. Leather and jeans its priestly robes.
Across the street, Indian Larry’s was having its own block festival. The street was closed off, and only bikes (and cages that belonged) were let through. A kaleidoscope of rockers and patches rode by, all showing respect towards fellow bikers. You were at the heart of the motorcycle culture this small but growing film festival was paying homage to.
Adding menace to the night, pressure cooker bombs rocked lower Manhattan and forced us to detour . . . We never made it to the Boat Graveyard
A film fest and PirateCon ride my group organized imploded into whiskey, pork and schemes for a cross-country adventure--inspired no doubt by the road-trip documentary 21 Days Under The Sky. Adding menace to the night, pressure cooker bombs rocked lower Manhattan and forced us to detour through Staten Island. We never made it to the Boat Graveyard, but our wheels made for an interesting adventure anyway. Riding an 848 in a kilt--with a dagger and a flimsy half lid that had to be held down at speed--was my personal Sound And Fury.
I can see why Eat Sleep Ride cosponsored the IMFF (and why they asked me to cover it). Creators of the swiss army knife of biker apps (robust navigation, crash-assist and ride sharing tools anyone? yes please!), ESR’s website emphasizes community, rider generated content and outside-the-box ways of experiencing collective motorcycling (like sync rides and leaderboard challenges).
While pretty much all biker subcultures were represented onscreen, the audience didn’t reflect this diversity. The few sportbikes, ADVs and hooligans huddled defiantly in a parking space outside--surrounded by a horde of customs, Harleys and cruisers. Moving forward, getting the word out to more subspecies of motorcyclist could be a priority for Festival organizers Elisa Seeger, John Hensley and Thomas Hampton. Depriving riders of such a rich, iconic experience--and its many epiphanies--could be considered a sin.