In the beginning of 2013, we traveled to Afghanistan to film a short documentary the National Women's Cycling team. To fund this production, we ran a Kickstarter campaign. Shortly after we began interacting with these women and learning more about them, we realized that this wasn't just a short documentary to profile the National Team. To do this story justice, it would have to become a feature length film, focused not just on the National Team, but on the brave female cyclists all over Afghanistan who are pushing gender and cultural barriers using the bicycle as a vehicle for freedom of mobility, independence, and social change. From a rural team in Bamiyan to a cycling club riding the busy streets of Kabul, these women are ushering in a new era for a country that is awakening to global influence - risking their honor and their lives for the joy and liberation of riding a bicycle. This is the story of Afghan Cycles.
THE WOMEN OF AFGHAN CYCLES
The women we met in Kabul and Bamiyan have such layered personal stories that we wanted to delve deeper into what's driving them as individuals and as teammates.
Tahira is one of our characters. She is 14 years old and lives in Bamiyan. She is one of the youngest girls on the team, but is by far one of the fastest. In fact, while we were filming, we started calling her “tisthaone” which in Dari means “the fast one.”
The older girls on the team have paved the way for cycling in their province, so much so that during Tahira’s interview this fall, she barely even touched on her fears as a female cyclist. Instead, she talked about all of the things she wanted to accomplish in her life - from winning a gold medal to being an Afghan Diplomat in China. Tahira’s parents have sent her to live with her brothers in Bamiyan City where she receives a better education and more opportunity than the rural village she was born in. Her brothers help her with her studies and bought her her very own bike because they want her to be able to get around as easily as boys do.
This girl has dreams and ambition, as do all of the girls riding bikes, despite the threats they receive and the rocks that are thrown. They are the reason why we believe so strongly in this film, and want to share their strength and courage with you.
WHY A SECOND ROUND OF FUNDING?
There is a big difference between a short film a feature length documentary. As the story has developed on the ground, we have followed along, profiling teammates from three different cycling teams throughout the country. We are very thankful to our sponsors and supporters who have gotten us this far.
This film carries a universal message. Knowing the many purposes that a bicycle can serve, this film will inspire women around the world to ride. The bicycle is a multipurpose tool, both in developing and developed countries, highlighting the importance of gender equality. In giving women autonomy, and their own means of transportation, a bicycle can provide a woman access to education, healthcare and work opportunities, all of which positively benefit both the women, but also their families and communities.
And because we believe in the film's universal message, we want you to be involved in helping us to finish this project. We are currently in the final stages of production, and we need your help to finish this feature length documentary.
WHAT YOU'RE SUPPORTING
By backing this project, you are supporting the final production trip to Afghanistan this October and the post-production costs that are needed to finish Afghan Cycles. In anticipation of the film's premiere in Spring 2016, we are building out a robust outreach campaign. You aren't just supporting a film, you are taking part in a global movement.
We have a variety of rewards at different levels, including thank you postcards, behind the scene photos, and a lot of excellent cycling gear made possible by our friends at Skratch Labs, Liv and Osprey Packs.
Some of the rewards include:
- A thank you postcard, with an original Afghan Cycles production print. Frame it on your wall for inspiration!
- Hydration packs from Osprey Packs. Never ride without hydration again.
- An original Afghan Cycles production print by photographer Claudia Lopez.
- Authentic Afghan kites, handmade in Kabul.
- Ride with the Afghan cyclists in California or Colorado
- Handmade, limited edition earrings made from upcycled bike tubes
- Limited edition Combat Apathy doppio by Innate Gear
- And more!
This is a LET MEDIA production, directed by filmmaker Sarah Menzies. Menzies has been a freelance videographer and ﬁlmmaker since 2010 and founded the production company Let Media in 2012. Her short documentary ﬁlms, including Catch It (Director/Producer, 2014) and The Way Home: Returning to Our National Parks (Director of Photography, 2012), have screened at festivals such as Mountainfilm in Telluride, Banff Mountain Film Festival, Port Townsend Film Festival, Wild and Scenic Film Festival and many others. Menzies ventures into wild spaces to bring back amazing stories of strength, courage, and passion that highlight our common humanity. Seeking personal character-driven stories, she highlights the good that exists in the world through her films, showing audiences that everyone is capable of creating positive change.
Executive Producer: Caryn Capotosto has produced five feature documentaries including Best of Enemies (Co-Producer), a 2015 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize nominee which will be released theatrically in July 2015 by Magnolia Pictures and Participant Media. In 2014 she was the Associate Producer on the Academy Award-winning documentary, 20 Feet From Stardom (2014), and has independently produced the feature documentaries Chasing Beauty (2013) and Filmage: The Story of Descendents/ALL (2014). Current projects include a feature documentary about the acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble for Participant Media.
Producer: Shannon Galpin is a humanitarian focused on women’s rights and gender violence and is the founder of Mountain2Mountain. She is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and received an Honorary Achievement Diploma from the IOC for the work she does to support women's cycling in Afghanistan. Her memoir Mountain to Mountain: A Journey of Adventure and Activism for the Women of Afghanistan was published in 2014.
Editor: Nora Gully started out at the legendary documentary studio Kartemquin Films, where she worked on The Interrupters and about a dozen other films, eventually becoming an Associate. In recognition of her potential, Nora was chosen to be one of eight Assistant Editor Fellows at the 2014 Sundance Documentary Film Labs, where she was mentored by some of the best in the business. This past year, she was editing the forthcoming Kartemquin documentary The Prosecutors and served as post production supervisor for Almost There. Before that, she was additional editor for the Oscar-nominated Finding Vivian Maier.
Director of Photography: Jenny Nichols, has 8 years of experience in visual communication and filmmaking. Her latest film, Pride of Namibia, Produced for World Wildlife Fund, received the following awards, Best Short Film, Wild & Scenic Film Festival (2015), Grand Prize, Adventure Travel Trade Assn. Film Festival (2014) Silver, World Responsible Tourism Awards (2014) She has worked globally telling character driven stories to engage audiences and bring timely cultural and environmental issues to life.
Impact Producer: Anna Brones, is a freelance journalist, author and producer who has previously worked in Afghanistan. Her previous production work includes the feature documentary Mending the Line (2014), winner of Audience Choice at 5 Point Film Festival and People’s Choice Award at Banff Mountain Film Festival, and Les Voyageurs Sans Trace (2015). She is the author of two books and currently working on her third. Her work has been featured in publications like The Guardian, BBC, and The New York Times.
ALL PHOTOS COPYRIGHT AFGHAN CYCLES.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge we face in the production of this film is safety and security in Afghanistan. In the event we are not able to travel there this Fall, then the money we raise here will be used to get us there as soon as we deem it safe to travel and finish production. In the past three years our team has been on the ground in Afghanistan 2 times and we have hired local crews at times when we are unable to be there, so we are very experienced in security fluctuations and have a network of people on the ground to make it as safe as possible for our team to travel and film. Your support goes directly into the production (including security) in Afghanistan, and will be applied when we are able to get there safely. In the event that we are not able to film there at all, then the money will go straight into post-production and finish the film with the footage we have already shot.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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