Questioning authority has always enticed filmmakers.
Maybe it’s the notion that anti-establishment behavior makes audiences feel empowered, or perhaps it’s the spirit of going against the mainstream. Whatever the reason, audiences are fascinated with insurgency. With the premiere of “B.I.K.E.” – one of the most anticipated films at the Ann Arbor Film Festival – tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., the tradition continues in a surprising form: the bicycle.
The film chronicles the exploits of the Black Label Bicycle Club as well as co-director Anthony Howard’s grueling attempts to join the elusive group. The film, which creatively mixes documentary footage and elements of narrative storytelling, is intended to give an insider’s perspective into the underground society.
For the record, Black Label Bicycle Club is an anti-consumerist group dedicated to avoiding all manner of manufactured products.
Characterized by their environmentally friendly lifestyle, love of chaos and rejection of the automobile, the group became a kind of impenetrable fortress for Howard. Falling into drug and alcohol problems, Howard’s quest to be accepted by the group becomes a central arc for the film.
The project developed as a result of the friendships between the directors and producers, who all shared an interest in filmmaking.
“The idea was that we would make it about Anthony joining this club,” co-director Jacob Septimus said. “We didn’t think it would be that difficult. It ended up being more difficult than we imagined and it ended up being about why Anthony couldn’t join.”
“Anthony was the subject of the film while at the same time one of the filmmakers,” he said.
The creators of “B.I.K.E.” became fascinated with the subculture and praised its icon.
“A bike is an elegant symbol of resistance to mainstream consumer culture. And even though it is a consumer item made by companies, it doesn’t require any fuel or live off waste. It’s sort of a pure symbol,” Septimus said.
Though some hypocrisy exists in Black Label’s recent behavior (despite the fact that the club says they never speak to the press, the Black Label gave an interview to The Village Voice this past week), Septimus asserted that they nonetheless maintain a consistently strong social position.
“Their point is that America has gone down this path of obsessive consumerism. You can be yourself and make your own things,” he said.
As far as getting the film out to audiences, the Ann Arbor Film Festival is only the first step to mass distribution.
“The entertainment industry is like the Wild West. There are no rules,” producer Fredric King said.
Though it may seem ironic to market and sell the film eventually, given the film’s anti-consumerism subjects, it was the creators’ goal to get viewers thinking.
“Our experience is that students like it. And there’s a lot to think about in this movie. There’s a lot of contradictions and it gets people thinking,” Septimus said.