May 31st, June 1st & 2nd 2019 - report from Lisbon Motorcycle Film Festival, Portugal

We’ve been to many film festivals over the years, and it’s hard not to become jaded by the apparent shift from the celebration of the art of filmmaking to the corporate marketing expos that mainstream festivals have become. Even the smaller festivals seem to be have been defined by the career opportunism of the festival organisers. When we were invited to Lisbon Motorcycle Film Festival we were curious to see if the same applied to a motorcycle specific event.

The LXMFF was a breathe of warm fresh air. Hosted by an honest crew of motorcycle enthusiasts and headed up by bikers and film makers Manuel Portugal, Catarina Ferrera, and Rodrigo Monteiro, the weekend was a celebration of all that is wonderful and diverse about motorcycling and film.

Portugal has a strong bike culture, and the custom scene is thriving, producing some of the standout international custom builds year after year.

The Festival was staged at the magnificent deco cinema Cinema Sao Jorge, a beautifully preserved building housing a whopping eighty hundred and fifty seater auditorium with a huge screen and booming sound system. A perfect setting for a weekend feast of moto cinema.

We were honoured to be invited as one of the headline films, alongside ‘Wayne’ - a terrific biopic of one of the all time great gladiators of motorcycle racing Wayne Gardner produced by Fraser Brown, and the 50th Anniversary print of ‘Easy Rider’. The programme included a series of captivating short films including international subjects, and films about the Portuguese biking culture. The programme was a perfect balance, creating a sense of vitality and authenticity that was infectious amongst the the enthusiastic and supportive crowd.

Our good friend Paul D’Orleans introduced our film, and spoke with us at the Q&A, where we were asked some poignant and very relevant questions. Paul also gave a key note speech on ‘Easy Rider’, discussing the unsung hero of Easy Rider, Cliff Vaughs. A Black chopper builder and Civil Rights activist, he pioneered the California chopper aesthetic, built the bikes for the film, and helped write the script with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Many of the scenes in the film were based on Cliff’s own experiences. He wasn’t credited and Columbia, who picked up the film, insisted his involvement was never discussed.

Another special guest was Elspeth Beard, the first woman to circumnavigate the world on a motorcycle, aged twenty three, in the early eighties. In a world without GPS or cell phones, she rode her BMW across the globe on a shoestring budget and without any support. Hearing Elspeth speak was inspiring; her stories of hardship and sacrifice, of fear and uncertainty, were told with a humour and an optimism that burns as brightly today as it did thirty-five years ago. Her book ‘Lone Rider’ is the benchmark for all motorcycle travel books. In a time when women were marginalised and belittled in the motorcycle world, she was a trailblazer in every sense.

We also saw a tribute film to Tim Caraco, who recently died on his bike. He screened his film ‘Halfway to Nowhere’ and attended last year’s festival.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Saturday night ride, with over six hundred motorcycles being ridden in a convoy through the streets of Lisbon, escorted by Police riders who seemed to have as much fun as us. We were kindly loaned a variety of bikes by BMW and Honda, and we had a great time navigating the winding cobbled streets and dodging the tram lines. The night ride was great fun, a perfect way to see Lisbon at night. The evening was concluded at a riotous party that went on into the early hours.

The festival is a must do on the European bike calendar, a stand out event hosted by terrific people in a wonderful city. Many a more high profile film festival could learn plenty by attending LXMFF.

See some shots from the weekend over on our gallery page.

Oil in the Blood