dandyARCHIVE: The Reel Deal
By Tammy Thorne, Photo Sam Javanrouh
Toronto filmmaker Martin Heath has had a lifelong love affair with cycling. It began on a 300 km ride he took as a teenager, travelling from his hometown of Leeds to Whitby in Northern England and back on a fixed-gear bike. That ride, he says, “changed him forever.”
Now 64, Heath still holds the world distance record he set in 1998 for Brevets de Randonneur Mondiaux – organized, long-distance bicycle rides – when he covered 9,780 km in a single year.
Leeds was also the birthplace of Heath’s relationship with film. He joined a local film society there in the 60s and has never stopping rolling. His accomplishments include the rock and roll documentary The Son of Tutti Frutti which brought him to Toronto in 1972, when it had a long run at the Roxy Cinema.
Heath later built and toured an inflatable cinema and, for many years, was head film reviser for the Toronto International Film Festival, where he ensured the print quality of films was perfect. A collector of rare film, he has amassed over 2,000 films and 50 projectors. He even built a pedal-powered projector used to screen silent films (complete with live piano playing.)
So which came first, bicycles or film? “For me?” Heath asks and then answers without hesitation. “For me, the bicycle, of course.” Heath points out, however, that historically bicycles and film arrived around the same time. It was 1885 when the first “safety bicycle” arrived and the first film was screened just three years later.
Heath has been able to combine his two great loves in CineCycle, his cinema-cum-bike repair shop. CineCycle has taken many forms since its start on Bathurst Street in the late 70s. The alternative theatre and performance space currently resides in 401 Richmond’s old coach house, down the bumpy lane behind 129 Spadina Avenue. Heath offers appointment-only specialized bicycle repair in the space and also operates a coffee bar, offering delicious coffee made with his 1950 La San Marco espresso machine.
Bicycles may have come first for Heath, but in the film department he has the final word. Toronto will be hosting an alternative film festival during the Toronto International Film Festival this September, and Heath is running it. “I’m the only person who would have the audacity to do it,” says Heath. “Plus, I have my own theatre.”
As Slamdance is to Sundance, Heath’s Micro-CineFest promises to showcase truly independent films with a little more edge. The festival’s slogan is “Tired of TIFF??… or just TIFF’ed Off??” Heath also hosted the Cycle Messenger World Championships’ official “unofficial” after-party at CineCycle this summer. Couriers from all over the world ate grilled burgers and drank local beer after completing the grueling three-hour race. During Bike Month, CineCycle screened classic films like Jour de fête by Jacques Tati and hosted a talk by Lorne Shields about his collection of bicycle photography from the early 19th century.
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