Feb 9-11 and 15-18, 2012: Cycle-Powered Cinema, Cnr Dundas and Manchester St (#14).

In February 2012, the corner of Dundas and Manchester Streets, (former home of Cycle Trading and Print Stop) became the site of a unique interactive cinematic experience.


Local engineers designed and built ten special stands so that members of the public could generate power while riding their own bicycles. This powered an outdoor cinema which showed a variety of bicycle-themed films across several nights.

A series of LEDs strapped onto the cycles’ handlebars indicated when the riders were riding fast enough to charge the battery that ran the projector and sound system. A sequence of lights near the screen indicated whether the team of cyclists was generating enough power at any given moment.

For those of you interested in how these units were made, please feel free to download this document by Kerry Mulligan who helped create them.

A wide range of films were screened, including old New Zealand documentaries, contemporary feature films and animations. Highlights included archival footage of the 1938 Round the Gorges Canterbury cycle race with live musical accompaniment by Anita Clark (violin) and Simon Gregory (guitar); a 1950s National Film Unit cycle safety film featuring a dapper family of chimpanzees; and Tim Burton’s 1985 directorial debut Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.

Thanks to everyone who helped make this project possible, especially the engineers/builders Kerry Mulligan, Dermot Sallis, Gary @ MonstaRacks, Sofian Irsheid and everyone with their logos below!

How did this project come together? Read Gap Filler’s Cycle-powered Cinema Project report

The Film Schedule:

Thursday 9 Feb

Monkey Tale

L’ecole des facteurs / School for Postmen

Round the Gorges (with live music)


Saturday 11 Feb

L’ecole des facteurs / School for Postmen

Triplets of Belleville


Sunday 12 Feb –

Monkey Tale

The Godmachine


Wednesday 15 Feb

Cookery Nook

Jour de fete / Festival day


Thursday 16 Feb

Stu Learns to Ride

The Bicycle Thief


Friday 17 Feb

Monkey Tale

Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure


Saturday 18 Feb

Monkey Tale

Cookery Nook

L’ecole des facteurs / School for Postmen

Round the Gorges (with live music)



Monkey Tale (1952, 8mins) – A film by the NZ National Film Unit. Thanks to ArchivesNZ.

A road safety film for school children starring a family of smartly-dressed chimpanzees. Charlie the chimp learns how to cycle safely to school and receives a diploma for his efforts. It has to be seen to be believed!


L’ecole des facteurs [School for Postmen] (1947, 14mins) – Directed by Jacques Tati | Thanks to the French Embassy

School for Postmen is a 1947 French short comedy film directed by Jacques Tati. Tati plays a French postman adamant to prove he can be just as fast as American postmen at delivering mail. The film includes numerous gags of Tati on his bicycle. He replicated most of the action here in his first major feature film, Jour de fête, released two years later.


Round the Gorges (1939, 22mins) with live music – Thanks to the NZ Film Archive.

Follows competitors on a 100-mile cycle road race through the Glen-Tui, Ashley and Waimakariri Gorges in 1938 and 1939. Intertitles explain locations and people, and promote the presence of the “Officers and Inspectors of the New Zealand Transport Department” on motorcycle patrol following each bunch of cyclists. The race is addressed at the start by then M.P. S G Holland, and ends at Addington Trotting Grounds.


The Godmachine (2007, 53mins) – Directed by Jan Steffen

Ever wondered what life is like for the many cycle couriers whizzing through the streets? The Godmachine explores the professional and personal lives and philosophies of couriers in Hamburg, New York City, Kyoto and Auckland. Participants are at least ten-year veterans – what keeps them on the streets in all weather? Encounter the international network of bike couriers, see them celebrate the finest and most energy efficient vehicle on the planet: the bicycle. Hear Mike from Waiheke Island explain his pursuit of ‘the silver moment’ the magic of physical interaction with the environment. This film will definitely change your perception of ‘those guys on bikes’!


Triplets of Belleville (2003, 78mins) – Directed by Sylvain Chomet

The Triplets of Belleville is a 2003 animated comedy film with little dialogue, the majority of the story being told through song and pantomime. It tells the story of Madame Souza, an elderly woman who goes on a quest to rescue her grandson Champion, a Tour de France cyclist, who has been kidnapped by the French mafia for gambling purposes and taken to the city of Belleville. She is joined by the Triplets of Belleville, music hall singers from the 1930s whom she meets in the city, and her obese hound Bruno.


Cookery Nook (1955, 15mins) – Thanks to NZ Film Archive

Made to promote the Edmonds Baking Powder Company.
A man attempts to bake afternoon tea, with disastrous results. His daughter and her friends cycle to the rescue, putting into practice the techniques they have learnt at school. Aunt Daisy is featured on her morning radio programme and the girls are shown at their home science class. Includes a visit to the Edmonds factory in Christchurch to see how baking powder is made.


Jour de fête [Festival Day] (1949, 70mins) – Directed by Jacques Tati | Thanks to the French Embassy

Jour de fête tells the story of an inept and easily distracted French mailman who frequently interrupts his duties to converse with the local inhabitants, as well as inspect the traveling fair that has come to his small community. Influenced by too much wine and a newsreel account of rapid transportation methods used by the United States postal system, he goes to hilarious lengths to speed the delivery of mail while aboard his bicycle.

The film is largely a visual comedy, though dialogue is still used to tell part of the story. Sound effects are a key element of the film, as Tati makes imaginative use of voices and other background noises to provide humorous effect. The film introduces what would be a key theme in Tati films, the over-reliance of Western society on technology to solve its (perceived) problems.


Stu Learns to Ride (1971, 14mins) – Produced for Ministry of Transport | Thanks to NZ Film Archive.

Stu Dennison rides his old bike onto the school playground. After failing to meet the traffic officer’s safety measures, he is asked to bring the bike up to standard before lessons can resume. Returning with a ‘Chopper’ he passes the test and instructions begin.
They include: Mounting; Dismounting; Signalling; Cycling Control Turning; Cycling Control Straight Ahead; On The Road, all beneficial to students and children whom cycle on public roads to school.


The Bicycle Thief [Ladri di bicicletti] (1948, 93mins) – Directed by Vittorio de Sica

Antonio Ricci is an unemployed man in the depressed post-World War II economy of Italy. With a wife and two children to support, he is desperate for work. He is delighted to at last get a good job pasting up posters, but he must have a bicycle. He is told unequivocally, “No bicycle, no job.” His wife Maria pawns their bedsheets in order to get money to redeem his bicycle from the pawnbroker.

On his first day of work, Antonio’s bicycle is stolen by a young thief, who snatches it when he is putting up a poster. Antonio gives chase, but to no avail. He goes to the police, but there is little they can do. The only option is for Antonio, his young son Bruno, and his friends to walk the streets of Rome themselves, looking for the bicycle.

It was given an Academy Honorary Award in 1950, and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by the magazine Sight & Sound‘s poll of filmmakers and critics in 1952. The film placed sixth as the greatest ever made in Sight & Sound’s latest directors’ poll, conducted in 2002.


Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985, 90mins) – Directed by Tim Burton

Tim Burton’s 1985 feature-film debut, the success of which got him hired to direct Batman in 1989. Eccentric man-child Pee-Wee Herman embarks on the big adventure of his life across the US mainland, as he sets out to find his beloved bike, when it is stolen in broad daylight. “Everything about Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, from its toy-box colours to its superb, hyper-animated Danny Elfman score to the butch-waxed hairdo and wooden-puppet walk of its star and mastermind is pure pleasure.” – Stephanie Zacharek,