Some of us live a privileged life, we are able to conduct our lives on a daily basis with a level of freedom and safety that others only dream of. Even though we are aware of this, there are moments we need to stop and appreciate what we are lucky enough to have. Documentaries tend to do this as a genre, but when you are directly faced with the drastic variations of society, it’s hard not to be affected. Afghan Cycles is no exception, maybe even more because viewers see first had what we’ve only heard through various news sources.
Afghan Cycles is a film by Sarah Menzies as she follows members of the all-woman National Cycling Team in Kabul Afghanistan. As one can imagine, it doesn’t shy away from the hardships these women face, especially as the country changes throughout the making of the film, but the resilience of the riders never falters. Menzies doesn’t just focus on the ceiling breakers in Kabul, but in Bamiyan as well. These unique women are willing to risk their lives for a sport that could lead to progressing the country forward. It may be a big undertaking, but these women are just following their hearts.
Menzies does a beautiful job showing the diverse country Afghanistan is, and the various temperaments the ruling parties have had throughout different generations. Modern viewers are, sadly, hard pressed to remember an Afghanistan that is not at war, when in reality it was once a modern, thriving country. In its own subtle way, Afghan Cycles proves that our perspectives can be skewed without us even knowing it. We tend to have our thoughts about a certain topic without knowing the full details. This also translates to the religious aspect of this country. A whole generation of people don’t see a difference between religious and fanaticism regarding Islam, but this film not only shows that, but shows 3 different factions.
Beyond perceptions, this film is about strength. These riders are constantly surrounded by fear because the simple act of women on bicycles threatens others’ beliefs. Yet, each day the National Cycling Team of Afghanistan work to help progress a resistant country into a world of equality. It’s not easy for them, and Afghan Cycles addresses this, both in Kabul and in Bamiyan, but their passion lives on. In the simplest term, it is inspirational. They are not letting outside forces hold them back, and because of that have become some of the strongest women I have ever seen.
The two quotes that stand out to me and to some extent sum up the film are, we want to show “the good side of our Afghanistan” and “if we don’t stand for ourselves, no one will.” Those show just how important this is for these women, for this country, but sadly may not be able to sink into the culture until years into the future. To them, though, now doesn’t matter, it’s the future that is important. Afghan Cycles is full of strong, inspirational women.
It’s films like these that are so important at a time like this. In our own culture, where equality is not only a hot topic issue but one continually fought for, but we of this movement must look outside of ourselves to the ones who may not have a voice of their own. We can only hope that elements during movements have ripple effects on the future, but hopefully within other cultures. One has to take difficult changes and make the frightening choices for our well-being, but they are not gone without notice. We are aware of these girls’ struggles, and we honor them. Afghan Cycles needs to be seen by as many people as possible, and their continued strength must now live within us.
Afghan Cycles has it US Premier at the Seattle International Film Festival on Sunday, May 20th, at 6pm, SIFF Cinema Upton.
Next Screening: Sunday, May 27 at 1pm, Shoreline
For more information, please head over to the SIFF page for the film.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Let Media