Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland
May 23, 2014—AFTERMASS will premiere at the Clinton Street Theatre in Portland. 7 PM! $7. Please listen to Gus Van Sant who said, “This film is Great! Please watch it!” and tell all of your friends!
February 21, 2014—Our second festival appearance was at the Mid Valley Film Festival. We will post additional screening information as we receive confirmations. Most of this month was spent assembling materials for a DVD release later this summer with over 700 legal documents and 22 bonus films and deleted scenes culled from our massive vaults of footage. We will have a theatrical release in Portland in May followed by a tour from Maine to Miami in June.
November 15, 2013—The world premiere of Aftermass debuted at the Eugene International Film Festival on November 9 and we were honored to win the Board Choice Award.April 1, 2013—Editing of the 74-minute feature documentary is finished, color correction and audio mastering is completed, and the final musical score is being written and recorded! You may have caught an excerpt of the film on the Dinner+Bikes Tour this past May and you can see the film in festivals early next year!
Back in late 2008, Rev Phil Sano and I (Joe Biel) sat around talking about how much we'd like to watch a documentary about the history of Portland's Critical Mass. Shortly thereafter we scrapped together a trailer before we were each distracted by other film projects and Phil moved to Seattle. In the summer of 2009 I began making the film in earnest.
What does it mean that Portland, one of the best North American cities for cycling, has virtually no Critical Mass? Was it no longer relevant, did its activity not appeal to a cycling “mainstream,” or was a police crackdown just so successful? What are the new goals of cyclists? What is the new activism? How are objectives reached? And perhaps most importantly, how had Critical Mass compounded with other activism and advocacy to create North America's premiere bicycling mecca?
Quickly it became clear that the narrative was more complicated than I had previously thought. It all began with the Oregon Bike Bill in 1971 but progress disappeared for over twenty years until forces converged in city hall, as advocacy, activism, and funding for projects materialized in the 90s.
Through conducting interviews, I came into possession of some historical documents and the story became increasingly complex. Why were the the police so threatened by bicyclists in this way, to the point of illegally spying on them?
I opened the umbrella a little wider to look at the big picture—what was going on in Portland simultaneously in the early 1990s? What had gone on previously? How was the city government treating it? Obviously the lawsuit from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance in 1993 played significant roles, but what else shaped the way that we bicycle today?
I spoke with Roger Geller and Mia Birk—both employed by the city to make Portland functional for cyclists. I spoke with other city employees, Critical Mass participants, politicians, former politicians, activists, BTA employees, police officers, bicycle commuters, former and future mayors, and lawyers. Every step revealed three more steps and important figures of the past and present.
In the spirit of a time forgotten in documentary, I tried hard to maintain as much objectivity as possible and to tell both sides of the story; showing the complexity of the issues and the people involved: There is no good and evil—everyone is trying to manage the situation in the best way that they know how.
The film provides new and vital insights into Portland's transportation history as well as into paths other cities can follow to healthy planning and a green future.