Documentary Edge Festival Review: Bikes for Africa (3.5 stars)



You may have seen Hap Cameron on Breakfast back in the day when Paul Henry still was still around to get our days off to a more bigoted start. Back then he had travelled 6 of the 7 continents, and still had Africa to complete to finish his goal of seeing them all before his 30th.

He wanted the last one to be particularly epic and so set about planning his trip which would involve cycling a large part of the continent and running a project with Bicycles for Humanity and the Bicycle Empowerment Network. Bicycles for Humanity is an organisation that collects disused bikes from developing countries and then ships them off, the partner with the Bicycle Empowerment Network in Namibia who receive the bikes and set up workshops in conjunction with local organisations. Locals are trained in bicycle mechanics and maintenance as well as business and management skills. Then they sell the bikes and run a workshop for them. The money is then theirs to invest in other income generating ventures.

Bikes for Africa begins with Hap and his girlfriend Mandy as they’re raise money for a shipping container to send bikes to Namibia. I then follows them as they cycle through Namibia to meet their container in Katima. You see the group throughout their training and watch the project take shape.

Halfway through Hap and Mandy break-up and you are witness to it all. I suppose that’s one of the fascinating things about documentaries is that the process of making them can be quite unexpected. Watching it, I was torn between feeling like it was too much information, and why would I want to see them tearfully parting ways? It all felt a bit self-indulgent. But, I’ve come round to it. Because this documentary is the story of an adventure and that was just a part of it. For Hap, it was clearly a very significant part of it.

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It’s all shot on a handycam which Hap is quite upfront about having very little idea bout how to use. So don’t go expecting stunning vistas and incredible cinematography. The flip-side of that is that nothing is prettified. You see Africa as is. Dusty and broken and wild.

On a personal note, I nearly yelped with joy when Hap goes to Serenje, Zambia. It’s a town where I spent pretty much every second weekend in the first half of 2011 whilst volunteering in Central Province. Small world.

What the Bicycle Empowerment Network does is really neat. It’s sustainable and empowering and also really simple. Tick tick tick. Bicycles for Humanity has just set up a chapter in New Zealand so if you live in Auckland (sorry, only here so far though sure it will spread) and have an old bike you don’t need anymore then get in contact or hand it into a Bike Barn shop. You can also donate towards the cost of sending a container over.

You can also go to the other screening of the documentary, which I would highly recommend.

3.5 Stars

Saturday 13th April 1.15pm
Friday 19th April 12.45pm


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