Thursday, November 01, 2007

safety in numbers

The other week I went to see a documentary called Safety In Numbers at The London Bicycle Film Festival about a team of charity riders called The Fireflies. The movie was screened, along with other bike-related shorts, at the rather lovely Rich Mix theatre on Bethnal Green Road. (Love the walls by the way:)

Director, Nick Mason of Fasten Your Seatbelts Production, joined the Fireflies as they endured their gruelling 2005 ride across the French Alps to support a research and treatment unit for leukaemia. Their geographical journey was from Geneva to Cannes:

Nick, though managed to capture their emotional/spiritual journey beautifully.

The film peaked with an emotional story from one of the riders, panting at the top of a hill. Physically drained, lightheaded from the ride and overwhelmed by the moment, the rider (whose name I'm embarrassed to have forgotten - Nick?) told his personal story for being involved.

He was in Sri Lanka for Christmas when the Tsunami hit. He and his family rushed upstairs to avoid the impact of the first waves, but his son had disappeared. When the water had receded, he searched for his son in a state of sheer panic. To his relief, his son had been rescued by a Dutch man who pulled him up into a tree. They became great friends after the incident but months later, their Dutch hero was diagnosed with leukaemia. Driven by intoxicating emotions of gratitude and anger, our Firefly would face those mountains every year. And when his legs felt they could take no more he would think of this man who saved his son.

I didn't write that last paragraph to unnecessarily sensationalize the story. I wrote it because it was the story. We are desensitized to the realities behind charity initiatives. We hear about bike rides and runs, see photos of smiling people sweating it out and holding up large cheques for charity. They're such a part of our culture that we forget what it's for. And when we do see what it's for, it's in the form of a guilt-inducing advertisement, probably using actors.

I'm glad I went to see Safety In Numbers. I only went because I knew the Director. I sat watching it in the dark, on my own. But I left re-engaged with something I rarely think about in any great detail.

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