Afghan Cycles uses the bicycle to tell a story of women’s rights–human rights–and the struggles faced by Afghan women on a daily basis, from discrimination to abuse, to oppressive silencing of their voices in all aspects of contemporary society. These women ride despite cultural barriers, despite lack of infrastructure, even despite death threats. Afghan Cycles follows a small group of women training and road racing as part of the Women’s National Cycling Team in Kabul, and young riders in the Bamiyan region in Central Afghanistan, who use mountain bikes to commute to school and run errands in the shadow of the sixth century Buddhas blown up by the Taliban in 2001. For all of them, the bicycle is a symbol of freedom. Yet sometimes the danger and obstacles can prove too much, as we learn when one of the main characters makes a difficult choice in order to create a better situation and future for herself and her family.
Afghan Cycles portrays women who are pedaling their own revolution, aggressively challenging gender and cultural barriers using the bicycle as a literal and metaphorical vehicle for freedom, empowerment and social change. Gender violence and oppression make Afghanistan one of the most challenging places in the world to be a woman. Marginalized and severely discriminated against under the Taliban, today’s Afghan women enjoy very minimal constitutional rights, and gender bias still runs deep. In a country where even straddling a bicycle seat is considered immoral, the women in Afghan Cycles are ushering in a new era for a country slowly awakening to global influence and cultural change. The film portrays the almost insurmountable obstacles they face in a traditionally male-dominated society, including corruption, national instability, and threats from the Taliban.
The bicycle may seem a simple form of transportation and sport, but Afghan Cycles illustrates that for Afghan women and other women around the world in repressive societies, it can become a tool of empowerment.
Sarah Menzies is Director, Producer, and Cinematographer on the film. Her production company, LET Media ventures into wild spaces to bring back amazing stories of strength, courage, and passion that highlight our common humanity. Seeking personal character-driven stories, Sarah’s films showcase the good that exists in the world, illustrating that everyone is capable of creating positive change. Afghan Cycles, which is Menzies feature length documentary directorial debut, premiered at the 2018 Hot Docs Film Festival. She is joined by an excellent team including Executive Producer Caryn Capotosto, whose documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor about Mister Rogers was shown at last year’s Mendocino Film Festival.
There will be a Q&A with filmmaker after the screening.
Listen to Sarah Menzies Interview with Joy LaClaire on Forthright Radio
Afghan Cycles will be shown at Coast Cinemas on Sunday, June 2 at 10:30 AM. Purchase Tickets Here.
Forthright Radio, with host Joy LaClaire is based in Bozeman, Montana, and features interviews with dynamic and important authors, filmmakers, and persons of interest. Forthright Radio is a Beyond The Deep End production, originally broadcast from the Philo studio of KZYX fm, listener-supported Mendocino County Public Broadcasting.