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Friday, June 14, 2024

Documentary about bicycling around the world to be screened at Varsity

Although many of us grow up riding bikes, some people may rarely think about the importance of bicycles for many others around the world. A Bay Area filmmaker, Jacob Seigel-Boettner, has made a film called With My Own Two Wheels to explore just that.

It will be shown on Monday at the Davis Varsity Theatre at 8:30 p.m.

The film is about the importance of bicycles on a global scale. Seigel-Boettner and his brother Issac came up with the idea while they were undergraduate students at UC Berkeley. Both of their parents are bike fanatics and lead bike tours around the world. For them, bikes have always been an integral part of their lives.

“It’s always been this really cool expensive toy that’s shown up under the Christmas tree. We definitely took it for granted a little bit,” Seigel-Boettner said.

He started coming up with the idea for the film during a summer he spent in Rwanda while an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, working on a project that distributed special bikes to the coffee farmers there. He made a short film about one of the farmers, which was well received, and saw that the bike meant something totally different to people in Rwanda than it did to people in the U.S.

“We wanted to tell this story of the bike through film being used in different ways that we definitely didn’t realize growing up in the U.S. You have your car keys at 16 and you don’t really realize that the thing you grew up riding around the block on is a lot more for a lot of other people,” Seigel-Boettner said.

To find the characters for his film, Seigel-Boettner e-mailed many different bike development projects and the ones that responded were the ones he considered for the film. The film is driven by the characters’ stories and struggles rather than on the projects.

The film focuses on five characters from all over the world: Fred, a health worker from Zambia, Mirrian, a wheel builder in Ghana, Bharati, a high school student in India, Carlos, a pedal power engineer in Guatemala, and Sharkey, a bike mechanic in Santa Barbara. Each person has a unique story and views the bicycle in a different way.

“My goal in the film is to get people to think about the bike differently. For Issac and I growing up it was definitely not something we thought about as a tool that an empower people and change lives, both abroad and in our own communities,” Seigel-Boettner said.

The filming and production for the film took place over the course of a year. Throughout this process they had their fair share of struggles. One in particular was during filming in India. When they arrived at the village to choose the girl they were going to interview they walked into a room of 45 girls. They didn’t know any Marathi, the local language, and the girls only knew a bit of English so communication was a challenge. However, when they started asking questions one girl stood out and that was Bharati.

Sharkey’s story has a special impact on the people involved with making the film because it was a local story. They didn’t know what to expect when they started filming, and it was a reality check. Sharkey’s story highlights the socio-economic, ethnic and gang related struggles in the city of Santa Barbara.

“That local story was very humbling because we didn’t necessarily know that was what we were going to find when we did the story. It has the most meaningful, personal side for me,” Seigel-Boettner said.

The film is now on a screening tour around the U.S. The proceeds from these screenings are going to support World Bicycle Relief, a bike development program in Africa. They distribute specifically designed bicycles, customized to suit transportation needs of a local area. The film helps to further the message of World Bicycle Relief, particularly with the story of Fred, who received a bicycle from them.

“The film gives a visually compelling medium to show how people around the world really benefit from a bicycle, and are able to get to places they would normally have to walk to,” said Rebecca Much, a representative from World Bicycle Relief.

The screening in Davis is being planned by undergraduates Amelia Badish and Andrew Wallace. This film is particularly relevant to Davis and its extensive cycling community and tradition.

“I think it’s an important film to view and has a really good message. Davis has a huge bicycling community whether it’s the students at UC Davis or any of the numerous racing teams or people in the community. It’s a good thing for people to support,” Badish said.

For more information about the film and the screening visit withmyowntwowheels.org or the Facebook event. Tickets are available at withmyowntwowheelsdavis.eventbrite.com/.

PAAYAL ZAVERI can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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