You probably had a preconceived idea about what you might experience on your travels. How different was perception from reality?
Because I had spent quite a bit of time in Rwanda, I didn’t have the developing world culture shock this time around, though things definitely were different than I expected in a few places. Having spent time in Rwanda, I had this picture in my mind that all of Africa would look something like Rwanda. Sort of like how we often refer to “Africa” as if it were a country. Definitely not the case. Zambia couldn’t have been more different than Rwanda, both in terms of the landscape and the general feel of the place. South Africa was another thing entirely. Now I try to catch myself whenever I use the word “Africa” and ask myself if I am generalizing again. The continent is so diverse. There is no homogenous, monolithic “Africa.” That is part of what makes the continent so fascinating once you start to dig past the headlines.
India was also a bit of a shock. I had been told that it would be overwhelming, but that didn’t prepare me at all. The sights, smells, and sheer number of people (especially in Mumbai) were astonishing.
I have to say the most surprising part of the trip however was the across-the-board openness that all of the people we filmed had towards us. We were very worried that given our short timeframe for shooting in each country (only 5 days in Zambia), we wouldn’t be able to make enough of a connection with our subjects and thus wouldn’t get the sort of intimate day-in-the-life footage that we were looking for. Wow. Couldn’t have been more wrong. I don’t know if it was just luck, but all five characters completely opened up their lives to us. They let us follow them around literally filming every aspect of their day-to-day lives; even Bharati, a 14-year-old school girl from rural India. I don’t know how many teenage girls in the States would let three total strangers who they had met just the day before film their every move…and then invite them to stay for chai afterwards. Fred, Mirriam, Bharati, Carlos, and Sharkey were five of the most welcoming individuals I have ever met. They were a filmmakers dream come true.
Favorite moment during your travels to make With My Own Two Wheels?
That is a really tough one. The entire two-month round-the-world trip was incredible. Some highlights:
- Filming a Lion-King worthy sunrise at Fred’s house in Chapola, Zambia.
- Hanging on in the bed of Carlos’s pickup truck with the rest of the Maya Pedal crew in a thunderstorm as we sped along beautiful green windy mountain roads near Chimaltenango, Guatemala.
- Filming Sharkey and his crew from the back of Ian’s pickup truck riding through Santa Barbara. Totally illegal, but Sharkey and co. loved it. And we got some great shots.
I have to say my favorite moment throughout the entire process of making the film was our World Premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February. It was the perfect homecoming for Ian, Isaac, and myself. We got to show our film in front of a sellout crowd of 680 at the Lobero Theatre, where we have all been going to see films and shows since we were little. Tons of friends and family were in attendance. Bici Centro set up a great bike valet out front, and 50 students and parents from Santa Barbara Middle School (all three of us are alums) rode their bikes from campus to the theater. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to premiere our film.
Coolest bicycle you saw during your travels?
Actually, we didn’t see too many heavily modified bikes, as we were so focused on filming the single characters in each country. However, while in Rwanda filming a segment that didn’t make the final cut, we saw these really cool hand cycles right outside of Goma, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. So many people lost their limbs during the genocide or the continuing violence in the DRC. It was amazing to see how they had constructed these great hand-pedaled tricycles to give disabled people a way to get around.
More information about the film: http://www.withmyowntwowheels.org
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