Cycling in Film

Recently the Utah Film Center screened a couple films that take a closer look at the cycling world, but do so in different ways. For those of you that live in Utah, you know that cycling is a very popular sport in the state. And for those of you not living in beehive, well, now you know.

The two films, Rising From Ashes and Half the Road, highlight one important theme: perseverance.

Rising From Ashes, as the title suggests, is a story of second chances. The feature length documentary takes viewers along with cycling legend Jock Boyer as he moves to Rwanda, Africa to help a group of struggling genocide survivors pursue their dream of a creating national cycling team. 

In this story about hope and redemption, the bicycle becomes a tool and cycling becomes the act that changes the nation.

According to the film’s website:

Team Rwanda started out as a cycling organization however they quickly learned they had to care for the greater needs of each athlete. Many of the riders could not read or write, lived in homes without water, electricity, were malnourished, and had never received healthcare, or even knew what a dentist was. But there was still a greater issue, the issues of the heart. These riders were all recovering from the traumatic psychological effects of the 1994 genocide. Team Rwanda had to look deeper.

Team Rwanda has not solved all of these problems but it is making a difference. Riders are provided a modest salary to help provide for themselves and their families, equivalent to three times the national average income. Riders are given English lessons and taught how to read and write. Healthcare is provided for the ongoing issues of malaria and water born diseases. When funds are available, the riders are given regular health checks and dental care. The riders are given the responsibility of being ambassadors for their country to the World.

While the team has taken care of the physical and mental issues it has provided something greater… hope. Rwanda is a country recovering from one of the World’s most devastating genocides and they have longed for heroes. The riders of Team Rwanda have become more then just a cycling team, they have become ambassadors of hope and men to look up to. They have given the country a vision of something greater then themselves and a renewed sense of purpose.

The Utah Film Center has shown Rising From Ashes on a few occasions and has partnered with various organizations and companies to share this story. We’ve partnered with Adobe (the local site recently organized a cycling league to promote team-building and a healthy lifestyle), The Bicycle Collective (a local nonprofit organization that promotes cycling as an effective and sustainable form of transportation and as a cornerstone of a cleaner, healthier, and safer society), and most recently with Marcia and John Price family and the Utah High School Cycling League

The last Rising From Ashes screening took place on a blustery summer evening at the end of July. Guests were invited to Marcia and John Price’s home for small, yet mighty bites, and delectable desserts (catered by the fab Blended Table) before everyone took their seats at the home’s outdoor amphitheater. 

The garden party crowd looks on as "Rising From Ashes" begins to play.
The garden party crowd looks on as “Rising From Ashes” begins to play.

Utah Film Center founder Geralyn Dreyfous and Rising From Ashes Director TC Johnstone introduced the film along with Tyrell Floyd, a student cyclist in Utah.

TC Johnstone and Utah Film Center Founder Geralyn Dreyfous
TC Johnstone and Utah Film Center Founder Geralyn Dreyfous
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Tyrell Floyd talks about the importance of cycling in his life.

After the film guests parted with a new perspective on what cycling can do for a community, both locally and internationally. The Rwandan cycling team proved that with perseverance anything is possible and the representatives from the Utah High School Cycling League stressed the importance of pursuing goals in a team-setting to overcome personal fears and achieve success.

In addition to Rising From Ashes, the Utah Film Center also recently screened a film called Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls & Power of Women’s Professional Cycling. Chelsea Ratcliff, a local writer, blogger, and cycling enthusiast, came to the film and explored the issues the film raises about gender biases in the sport and simultaneously wrote about the impact the filmmaker and professional cyclist, Kathryn Bertine has had on the state of cycling. In her blog post she mentions:

Following the 2013 production of Half the Road, Bertine, along with pro cyclists Chrissie Wellington, Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos, formed a group called Le Tour Entier (“The Whole Tour” in French). They petitioned for a women’s ride in the Tour de France – same days but separate courses. They gathered almost 100,000 signatures.

The outcome: this year women were granted a one-day, single stage 55-mile course lapping the Champs-Elysées. La Course, it was called, took place on Sunday July 27, 2014 – the last day of the Tour – before the men’s peloton rolled in.

Though, Bertine and the other pro female cyclists achieved this victory there is still more ground to cover for women cyclists to achieve equality in the male-dominated sport. Yet, it is through the perseverance of those seeking equality that it will be achieved.  

To learn more about Rising From Ashes  or to watch the trailer click here.

To learn more about Half the Road or to watch the trailer click here.

To learn more about the inequalities facing women in cycling, or to read more of Chelsea Ratcliff’s blog, Survival of the Realist, click here.