photo courtesy of Lucas Brunelle
Line of Sight: the Toronto connection ...in Guatemala
Documentary features local couriers racing in action sequence in idyllic tropical island
dandyhorse was excited to see that Benny Zenga (who’s film “Where are you go?” and work with BFF and the Winking Circle have all been featured in dandyhorse) had teamed up with Lucas Brunelle to make a documentary about alley cat races around the world.
The documentary features Toronto locals Nadir Olivet and John Baker. Baker headed down to Panajachel with a bunch of friends from Toronto, and met up with Olivet who is the main man behind the organizing of the event: the 18th Cycle Messenger World Championships in 2010 in Panajachel, Guatemala. Here’s a nice little video on YouTube about the event.
An alley cat is a race. Generally the structure is approximately the same as a day working on the bike as a messenger, only it’s at five to eight times the pace. Toronto has a prominent history of alley cat races starting in the late 80s.
Early in Line of Sight, videographer Lucas Brunelle describes ‘the hidden spaces’ where urban riders race in these alley cats. "We go in the space that the eye cannot see. It's a place in between cars, in between trucks and buses...taking a certain line through a curve or a corner that people just don't realize is there. And we use those openings, those spaces, those opportunities, those blind spots - that is the space that we exist in and that where we race."
Courier culture has become popular over the years and is evidenced by the Hollywood movie Premium Rush released August 2012 and reviewed here on the dandyBLOG by John Baker, who was also featured in Line of Sight in the Guatemalan segment of the film. Austin Horse is also featured in the film Line of Sight, and additionally took care of the technical riding seen in Premium Rush as he was [the main character] Gordon-Levitt’s stunt double.
dandyhorse caught up with Guatemalan CMWC race organizer Nadir Olivet and John Baker, the best “bad actor” who “shot” Lucas Brunelle in the action sequence "Chasing Demons" in the documentary.
The two amigos caught up on life and shared memories and experiences of being in Guatemala and at “the Worlds,” as it’s commonly dubbed by the messenger community.
At La Carrera hanging out, watching Line of Sight with Nadir Olivet and John Baker. Photo by Tammy Thorne
dandyhorse: How did if feel to be the one to “shoot” Lucas Brunelle on film? How did you get the guns?
John Baker: We decided that a good way to capture that last scene was to light some firecrackers in one of Lucas’ older cameras that he didn’t mind abusing. With Lucas lying on the ground, and Benny with a camera in hand, Serge (Lekovitch)and I helped execute the shot by lighting the three firecrackers placed in that older camera and releasing the fake blood that made it look like Lucas actually got shot. It was pretty awesome to play the role of the super-tough guy who shoots Lucas. I chuckle at the end of the scene when I am breathing heavily and standing over Lucas – uber tough guy!
Nadir Olivet: The guns are Lucas’ own and he brought them to do this action segment of the film [Chasing Demons]. We had to okay it with multiple levels of government and regional and native leaders and police to make sure everyone knew what we were doing. By the time Lucas got to the airport in Guatemala City, everyone had been expecting him. Because of the preliminary clearing that occurred, it was actually pretty painless for Lucas and Benny at the airport. Because the guys always went out with a police escort, everyone knew that things were okay and it was all being done for the purposes of filming.
DH: Were the roads closed off for the shoot?
JB: No, it was definitely a guerrilla style approach to filming. Benny would stand still, ride a bike while holding the camera mounted to a tripod, and even ride in a tuk tuk to capture shots. There was a general idea in mind as far as the filming was concerned, but at the same time things were established as we went along. Things that just looked cool and had a unique vibe going on were the areas we would stop at and film. At times Serge and I would break off with Lucas while Benny filmed some insert shots. Each day we travelled with two police escorts and two translators – one translated from English to Spanish, the other from Spanish to Mayan (for when we were in the mountains). This, combined with our enthusiasm, allowed us to shoot anywhere and everywhere we wanted.
DH: How did you get involved in the shoot and with Benny and Lucas?
JB: There was a group ride going up and down one of the mountains that surrounded Lago de Atitlan that basically everyone participated in. Following this, a much smaller number of riders continued to ride the mountain in various terrain that was far more technical than the previous part of the group ride. With very sharp inclines and incredibly steep declines, every rider felt the wrath of that mountain – especially because a handful of riders were on fixed gears. Serge and I happened to be riding with the ratio of 48/16 - great for Toronto but horrible for riding up a mountainside! This was an aspect of our overall enthusiasm that was noted by Lucas and Benny – which we later found out was the prerequisite for establishing who would be riding in the Chasing Demons section.
NO: CMWC drew hundreds of riders and then was hit by flooding so the race was modified. The main race course was redrafted and we lost La Ocho to the powerful water currents. I knew Lucas and Benny were coming to film the CMWC and so it was just an added bonus to have them there. I’ve known them both for a while and it was great to have them filming these racers who had come from all over the world. As I said in the film [Line of Sight], the hardest part about this race was getting to the race! Once we all had arrived in “Pana” and the rain had stopped, it was smooth riding throughout. It still rained, obviously, but just not nearly as much as when we first arrived at the beginning of September.
DH: In the Guatemalan tape it shows riders with big milk crates and chairs and such attached to their backs riding through the city. What is up with that?
NO: That was part of the cargo race. Every CMWC has separate events from the main race, and one of those events is a cargo race. Riders stack up some serious points if they can carry a significant amount of cargo. (These points are part of a cumulative total, which ultimately establish the CMWC victors.) It is always an entertaining event to watch.
DH: What were your best moments in Guatemala?
JB: Aside from just being there in the first place, two things that come to mind are Nadir getting a key to the city and the pie lady! We all went down to a public auditorium for an event held for the general public. Various performances occurred, including a handful of us getting on stage with our bikes holding track stands and doing backwards circles, all to the acclaim of the audience, local TV and newspapers. The finale of the performance was Nadir getting the key to the city. I don’t know if you remember Nadir, but I was the first person you hugged when you came off the stage. I was so happy for you man, it was a beautiful moment.
NO: It brought tears to my eyes. Getting the key to the city was a definite highlight, after so much time, resources and steadfast hard work, the key was a symbol of all of that summarized into one memorable ornament. I felt truly blessed to receive the key, it was a beautiful gesture by the people of Panajachel. But seriously, the pie lady is not to be missed! She is a local legend, everyone knows her and her delicious pies. It’s a perfect late night snack. (Well, anytime really!)
It became a ritual for Lucas (and basically everyone else) and he would go every night and get a lot of pie. One of the first nights Lucas came back to the hotel with two complete pies. Classic Lucas Brunelle style – why would you bother with pieces when you can just get entire pies?!
JB: Seriously I can’t stress it enough, those pies were to die for. More often than not, after a few pops we would all be sitting around and think: OH MY GOD THE PIE LADY!!!! Following this, a very jovial and excited group of messengers would head to the pie lady for a delicious nightcap. It wouldn’t be a proper night without a visit to the pie lady.
DH: What were your favourite pies?
JB: I’d say the banana pie was one of the best! What do you think Nadir?
NO: Banana pie for sure! Although really any pie that she makes is delicious.
DH: Guatemala seems really cool. There’s a scene in the movie where a woman is dancing with a puppet that is wearing a hat and smoking, with other people sitting around in a circle watching. What’s going on there?
NO: It’s Maximon – a Mayan saint that you can get things from that other saints won’t give you. I believe in Maximo. Patron Saint of the Maya who basically represents Judas. It’s a kind of morphing between Catholicism and the Mayan culture; a lot of Mayans believe Maximo a.k.a. Judas didn’t actually betray Jesus. To them, it isn’t logical that Judas betrayed Jesus – if you are the accountant and you know money was coming in, why would someone betray Jesus for just a couple of pieces of silver? They feel he was betrayed. So they ask this saint for things you wouldn’t normally ask other saints for: money, a nicer house, a better job, those kinds of things. In the same vein, unlike other saints he likes to smoke and drink, the above are given to him as offerings as part of their worship.
DH: Lucas refers to the “green wave” in NYC and took some of the best and fastest footage riding it with Austin Horse and Alfred Bobe Jr. Have either of you ever ridden the green wave?
NO: Yeah, I have had so much fun riding the wave, although I don’t think I could do it anymore. You have to be going fast and maintain a good time [to make all the green lights], these days I’m way too chilled out to be able to haul ass and make all those green lights! Hahaha
JB: I have been on a bike in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but unfortunately never riding the wave. Manhattan is cool because the avenues are so big and wide that there is just room to maneuver around obstacles.
DH: There is an initiative in Odense, Denmark called the “green wave” for cyclists on a path where the lights change to green for them as they come along if the maintain a speed …of 15 km/hr. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEOakvjuIEs
DH: What’s your favourite part of the film?
JB: I just really appreciate how well Lucas and Benny capture the true essence of alley cat racing. No one has ever done such a good job in such close proximity. I am totally biased in saying this, but honestly the section of the film featuring the 18th “Worlds” in Guatemala is my favourite. I just think it was such a cool experience for everyone there. Experiencing a CMWC is a wonderful experience in and of itself, but coupling that with being in beautiful Guatemala, it was just amazing. And the cherry on top - for me and Serge anyway - was obviously the filming. I feel so very fortunate for the whole experience; it’s a time of my life that I will never forget.
NO: I think it’s really important that this has all been documented. It’s good that Lucas and Benny have done this, especially because I know how long and hard these guys have been working on this project. Lucas has always done such a good job of filming alley cats, and coupled with Benny, the two are unstoppable. No one has captured alley cat racing like they have. Any messenger knows what it’s like to ride in an alley cat, now the general public can get an idea too.
John with the first bag by YNOT.
Check out the official trailer for Line Of Sight here
Related on the dandyBLOG:
dandyREVIEW: Premium Rush vs Line of Sight