Michael Ward on Monday, May 21
Stirring, important, and powerful, Sarah Menzies' new documentary Afghan Cycles shares the story of the first Afghanistan Women's Cycling Team. However, as one may expect, the film goes beyond that and focuses on the shifting views on the role of women in modern-day Afghani life.
Between Kabul, more of a bustling city, and the Bamiyan Province, which still largely adhere to traditionalist views on women's roles in society, we see the bicycle mean different things to different individuals. In all ways, the freedom of bicycling cannot be understated and Menzies' film shows the exhilaration her subjects experience, whether they are biking to school, running errands, or training for competition.
Eventually, the film breaks ranks from a tapestry of voices, both female and male, and focuses in on Frozan, a strong, inspirational woman who sees competitive cycling as a literal and metaphorical escape. Her story amplifies the overwhelming sense that women remain caught in a societal tug of war where they either are not permitted to be seen by themselves in public, or they are free to wear more casual, colorful clothing and can be social away from the home.
Menzies' film keeps a simmering intensity about it, which never proves overwrought or heavy-handed. In the final act, Frozan's journey takes her to an unexpected place, which leads to an emotional reunion that is powerful, meaningful, and hard to not be moved by.
One of the better documentaries at SIFF this year, and overall in 2018, Afghan Cycles will make you think of something we largely take for granted - riding a bike - and see it in an entirely different context and meaning.
Director: Sarah Menzies
Running Time: 90 MInutes
May 20 | SIFF Cinema Uptown | 6:00 PM
May 21 | SIFF Cinema Uptown | 4:00 PM
May 27 | Shoreline Community College | 1:00 PM