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Lifecycles: a sea change for mountain cinema?

It’s a rare thing to gain exclusive, invite-only access to the world premiere of a film. Almost as rare for this writer is an impromptu trip through Vancouver and the Sea to Sky Corridor to bear witness to such an event: I don’t like leaving my house. Even more rare (and now we’re talking almost cryptozoologically rare) is when little old Rossland can take pride in the combined efforts of a small group of our own that will leave an indelible mark on the action sports world- forever.

I’m not exaggerating. Sometimes the stars align.

This Tuesday past (August 10th), the stars of Lifecycles were out in force at the Maurice Young Millenium Place Theatre in Whistler, BC. Rossland-based pro mountain biker and Lifecycles co-star Mike Hopkins was in attendance with other riders featured in the film and was kind enough to buy yours truly 341ml of the local Whistler brew. Cheers Mike! Much appreciated.

But before we get right into the beer guzzling…

Lifecycles, for the record, is an HD (High Definition) film developed and meticulously slaved over by Derek Frankowski, Ryan Gibb, and co-creator Andre Nutini. The film saw its genesis almost five years ago, with two years of pre-production, two and a half years of filming, and eight months of post-production all leading to this most fateful and obligatory of events during Whistler’s annual summer mountain bike festival, Crankworx.

You could call it a culmination of creative compatriots’ complete commitment to crafting a classic and still be forgiven for over-seasoning. The fact is, the film brings so many talents together that, while they can get difficult to keep track of, the end-result is a film that will truly change the face of mountain-bike, and, further, action sports cinema, for good.

Credit is due, again, to Derek, Ryan and Andre, with additional nods going to Rossland talents Scotty Carlson and Jer Kenning at Juicy Studios, Anders Petersen and Markus Nurmi (second unit), Graham Tracey (narrator), and Mitchell Scott (writer). NOTE: while Mitchell is from an obscure hamlet called 'Nelson', for the purposes of this article we will consider him one of our own: a Rosslander by proxy.

The doors opened at 7:00, and a steady trickle of early arrivals hobnobbed with the filmmakers and crew until the big crowd arrived right before show time. Just like home.

Scott Bikes, sales and marketing folks from Shimano, media from Pink-Bike, hangers-on, pro bikers and loads of sponsors for the film caught up on the latest industry inside line. Meanwhile, employing ninja-like dexterity, I was able to infiltrate the inner circle of Lifecycles contributors and pose some well-timed questions; the cast and crew, conspicuously attired in Lifecycles t-shirts, had wisely circled the wagons amidst the feeding frenzy of well wishers and supporters.

“The heavy lifting’s done now,” Frankowski smiled. “In 2004, the wheels started turning, and it’s been a long road. Now I’m just excited to share and show [the film].”

Asked what his hopes for Lifecycles include, Derek stated that, “I want people to leave with something more than what they had going in.”

 

Certainly, the film and its makers achieved that end; after shuffling in to a packed theatre and a short introduction compliments of Mitch Scott (no relation to the bike company), the audience was treated to a visual spectacle, a story, really, that had to date never been spun on two wheels.

Lifecycles is at once an art film, an exercise in aesthetics and colour, a study in movement, and an environmental film. In Derek’s words, the mountain biking, the bikes themselves and the accompanying material culture of mountain bikers, are merely the vehicles (literally and figuratively) to guide the story.

It is a beautiful film. Utilizing the latest in HD camera technology and the best tools available to today’s cinematographer, Frankowski, Gibb and team deconstructed the prototypical mountain bike flick, threw the pap in the fire and started from scratch. The result is an instant classic for anyone even remotely interested in the mountain bike scene/sport. I’m even confident in saying non-bikers will appreciate what this film stands for.

Every painstakingly crafted scene dovetails perfectly with those that follow, the thematic arc nailed down throughout; seasons fold into one another as riders progress, and new terrain is accessed. Old trails give way to new ones or are erased permanently. Diverging trails in the woods hold the promise of new tomorrows- for real, Robert Frost would have been pumped!

Lifecycles contributor Anders Petersen said it best with “(The film) brings you into the experience. It’s about the roots, and why we like to bike, the emotion behind it and what you feel in the moment.”

Petersen added his hopes for the film include an international cult following. Duly noted, but my expectation is that even without subtitling in a host country’s native tongue, the stoke will diffuse despite any existing or perceived language barrier. Check the cross-border, trans-national appeal box off.

The most heartening part of the whole event was the standing ovation lavished on our heroes at the film’s end. They had opened eyes, bucked the trend of dime-a-dozen bike films, and effectively filled their audience full of Cupid’s arrows for their sport; you couldn’t leave the theatre not feeling the love for your trusty rusty or chromed-out steed, keen to climb aboard and pedal, pedal, pedal.

Forced into the uncomfortable position of again having to face the crowd head-on, the boys did us all proud--Derek emphasized the importance of building a solid team, while Gibb gave his thanks to the riders and all the folks involved for their patience and unflagging support (especially the wives/spouses/girlfriends that have had to share their guys with the project these past five years).

Meanwhile, Rosslanders will soon have an opportunity to fly the Lifecycles flag here in town. After the Vegas premiere and several other scheduled events, the Mountain Kingdom will play host to a Lifecycles screening (or two, or three, hopefully) in October.

I am very excited for people to see this! I rarely use exclamation marks! But I know you’re going to like it!

As one moviegoer noted, “It was so powerful. Man, everything else is going to look budget after this.” To find out more about Lifecycles, check out the filmmakers' website.

 

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