The Bicycle Film Festival kicks off tonight with a party at Le Baron in Chinatown and continues through the weekend with dozens of screenings at Anthology Film Archives, an after-party at Lit, and, of course, the annual street party.
Despite speculation that the 13-year-old festival might move to Brooklyn, organizer Brendt Barbur decided to keep it local — for now, anyway. “This is where we were born,” he said of the East Village and Lower East Side.
One thing is different this year: Saturday’s street party, usually held on East Second Street, will instead be at the Hester Street Fair.
Asked about the move, Barbur seemed to blame the city’s reluctance to cooperate with less commercially viable organizations. “I just felt the city is trying to protect the city from the block party, so to speak, because of tradition and the exploitation of it with brands and so on moving in,” he said. “So I think somehow community events like ours would probably be hurt by all the new rules.”
Barbur declined to go into detail about those new rules. Last year, he put it more succinctly: “The city doesn’t make it as easy unless you’re a major corporation,” he told me. “It’s hard to do community events.”
The Manhattan resident still thinks a move to Brooklyn, land of bicycle harvesters, is imminent. Williamsburg and Greenpoint are two neighborhoods where he believes the street party would get strong support. “I think if you’re talking about a community of people who identify themselves as cyclists, I definitely think that there’s a lot going on in Brooklyn,” he said.
In fact, he may eventually relocate the company’s offices there from Chelsea. “Manhattan has become prohibitive to folks who are trying to open a small business,” he said. “We run a company here in Manhattan, and we’ve considered moving to Brooklyn as well.”
Some 4,000 people attended the street party last year – a relatively low number compared to earlier iterations – but Barbur is optimistic that the Hester Street Fair will bring a new audience.
Though most of the 60 screenings are in the East Village at Anthology, the first takes place tomorrow in Midtown West, at the Eventi hotel. “The Italian American” will feature a live-score accompaniment by Blonde Redhead.