Film on wheels

One of the films featured include Sister Session (2012, left) which follows an all-female team's foray into a bicycle motocross event.
One of the films featured include Sister Session (2012, above) which follows an all-female team's foray into a bicycle motocross event.PHOTO: BICYCLE FILM FESTIVAL

Film festival celebrating cycling hopes to be focal point for biking community and give back to society

For half his life, Mr Poon Kng Joo, 60, has been quietly restoring cars. But in the last six years, it is his penchant for restoring vintage bicycles to working condition that has gained him more attention.

A 1960s Phoenix brand bicycle from Shanghai that he restored is the star of the auction block at the inaugural Bicycle Film Festival on Friday. It was a family heirloom passed down for three generations before being sent to Mr Poon for restoration.

The brother and collaborator of the late Cultural Medallion recipient and abstract sculptor Anthony Poon, Mr Poon runs vintage car restoration company Soek Seng Motor and bicycle restoration company Soek Seng 1954, specialising in classic and vintage road bikes ranging from Italian Colnago bicycles to Britain's Hetchins.

The auction is one of several events in the festival, which will be screening 10 bicycle-themed feature and short films. While this is the first time such a festival is held here, it has been an annual affair in New York since 2001.

Said festival founder Brendt Barbur, 44: "I love biking and I thought that we should do something positive and start spotlighting the existence of and beauty of cycling. There're so many surfing movies out there that help develop an appreciation for that sport. Why not celebrate cycling with film as well?"

It was bicycle enthusiast Lyndon Yeo, 48, from sports marketing and lifestyle events consultancy agency Firefly Connections, who pitched the idea to Mr Barbur to bring the festival to Singapore. Firefly Connections fully funded the festival.

The films in the festival come from places such as United States and Hong Kong and includes British film Boy (2012), about a man who uses cycling to come to terms with his son's death, and Estonian film Sister Session (2012), which follows an all-female team's foray into a bicycle motocross event.

Mr Yeo says: "These films will show cyclists sharing their real stories. The Bicycle Film Festival aims to convey the experience of the cyclists and, hopefully, transform how urban planners look at roads to make them more cyclist-friendly."

The festival is not just about movies. It also hopes to be a focal point for the biking community and give back to society. For example, proceeds from the sale of the auctioned bicycle restored by Mr Poon will go to Red Cross, in particular, its mobility programme which helps people with lost limbs to recover and carry on with life.

There will also be a bicycle runway show tomorrow, featuring four vintage roadbikes restored by Mr Poon, including an Italian Cinelli.

Mr Poon says his craft saved him from despair after his brother's death from lung cancer in 2006.

"There is a great satisfaction in improving on a bike from its original condition," says Mr Poon, who takes an average of one week to restore a bike.

"These days, I don't just restore a bike, but also paint new designs on it. Sometimes, when I start painting, six hours would go by without me realising it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'Film on wheels'. Print Edition | Subscribe