Saturday, April 20, 2024

The crowdsourced film “Motherload,” which shows how cargo bikes might save the world, comes to the Brattle Theater on Sunday, brought to town by a small consortium led by vice mayor Jan Devereux.

The project, which grew out of an avid cyclist’s desire to keep biking after having twins, morphed into something of a collaborative collage of personal stories, primarily from women, and most from moms getting the family around on cargo bikes. Filmmaker Liz Canning, a longtime corporate film editor, fell in love with her cargo bike after trading up from a trailer rig, and began sharing that joy online. Shortly afterward, a community took hold and the concept for “Motherload” was born. It took Canning about seven years to compile, compose and complete the organically sourced documentary. If there was any question to her fortitude for the long haul, consider that Canning lives in the San Francisco area, where infamously steep hills often humble well-conditioned folks in Lycra spinning on carbon frame racing bikes – and now just imagine a cargo bike laden with twins and groceries for the week.

Jan Devereux

Jan Devereux

Devereux, a cyclist herself, learned about the film when visiting her film buff brother in San Rafael, California. “He kept telling me I had to see it,” she said – and while she’s still yet to, it was that insistence that drove her to get in touch with Canning and partner with other local bicycle advocates and enthusiasts interested in bringing the film to town, including Steven Nutter of Green Cambridge; Somerville mother and activist Amanda Rychel; and Carice Reddien, owner of Bicycle Belle on Oxford Street near Porter Square, one of the area’s primary retailers of cargo bikes. The screening has blossomed into a communal event and celebration, and after the screening Devereux and crew will host a discussion about the challenges of urban cycling, bikes as a transit solution and all things wonderful about female and family liberation on two wheels. Then, to actualize all that goodness, there will be a group ride along Memorial Drive, on a Sunday when it’s still closed to cars.  

Beside the personal memoir aspect and crowdsourced anecdotes in the film, Canning intersperses historical information about cycling and feminism and food for thought about future uses of the bike as a utility vehicle and urban solution. Given our mounting discontent here with a failing public transit system limping along beneath overcrowded roadways – let alone matters of global warming and climate change –  Canning’s musings should provide a ripe jumping-off point for the ensuing conversation

If you’re interested in the film and thought to stream it … you can’t. The 81-minute documentary, true to its collaborative roots, is being distributed in kind. “Because of the enthusiastic activity I saw online convinced me to crowdsource material,” Canning said via email, “the growing hunger for the finished product convinced me ‘Motherload’ should be ‘crowd-distributed.’ And here we are, with 50 screenings booked all over the world just months after the premiere.”

Nutter said he hoped to “see 100 cargo bikes lined up in the parking spots in front of the Brattle,” and Devereux has made it possible: Space will be blocked off in front of the theater for just such an assemblage, she said.

“Motherload” screens at 11:30 a.m. Sunday at The Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St., Harvard Square. Tickets are $5. Discussion follows from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. Attendance by children is encouraged. Information is here.