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DVD: Life Behind Bars

In 2008 BMX racing made it’s first appearance on the Olympic stage at Beijing as a medal sport. It was the first of two that had been confirmed by the International Olympic Committee. For BMX to be included it meant the end of a track cycling event that had a lot of history, this lead to a lot of negativity towards the inclusion of BMX at the Olympics by cycling traditionalists. The media thought our sport was a joke… that was until it aired. Four years later the media have penned Sam Willoughby as most like Australian athlete to win a gold medal. It’s funny how the media can turn so quickly.

A few weeks ago with the 2012 Olympics rapidly approaching I was thinking it would have been nice to have seen the Life Behind Bars documentary. In the year leading up to BMX’s historical Olympic debut the guys over at Factory 47 captured the lives of five Australian BMXers on film as they were competing around the world in the World Cup series preparing to qualify to compete for their country on the worlds biggest stage. There was a lot hype about the filming while it was happening, but it just seemed to fizzle out over the years. My prayers were answered, it was only days later that I was contacted by Factory 47 and the DVD would be released in conjunction with opening of the Olympic Games.

The riders featured in Life Behind Bars include Jared Graves, Khalen Young, Luke Madill, Jamie Gray and Glenn Codega. In 2007 Australia was putting out great results on an international stage and while these five riders were top contenders for a shot at Olympic glory, and major contributors to earning the maximum of three spots for their country, there were a whole bunch of other riders in the running. I’m pretty sure that Alex Cameron was the fourth ranked Australian by UCI points when qualifying had ended. When you start to think of the others in the running you could come up with at least another handful.

Enter Kamakazi
Kamakazi made a late charge at qualifying for the Olympics, he also made a late entry to the DVD. When he’s first interviewed for the documentary he clearly states that he hates the film and looks hurt that he was left out, but clearly he overcomes that and settles in to take control of the camera.

Life Behind Bars is unlike any other BMX DVD that I have seen. The documentary format works well, it not only highlights the skills and the strengths of each of the riders but let’s you inside their heads. I have seen a lot of BMX DVDs, most of them are just about the racing. The closest they would get to behind the scenes would be a single interview and maybe some riders winding down riding trails or a skate park.

BMX has a lot of lost history, but thanks to the guys of Factory 47 Life Behind Bars is a time capsule that BMXers from around Australia and the world can enjoy and draw upon for years to come.

Some of the highlights for me are

  • The Khalen Vs Kama “thing” (it’s probably easier if you just watch the DVD rather than me explain it to you)
  • Seeing the various backgrounds of each of the five champions and just how they each prepared for Olympic selection
  • Seeing Khalen troubled by the big hills even after having won a Supercross race at Madrid
  • The sound track isn’t too bad either

One thing I can take from this DVD is the extreme physical and mental demand required to compete at such a high level in BMX racing. It’s easy to take for granted that they ride BMX bikes over jumps, but it’s just not the same as riding a much bigger than average BMX track. Those guys really put their bodies and their futures on the line for just 40 seconds of glory. There are no other Olympic sports where the risk of personal injury is so high and these guys take those risks every single lap.

Language warning
The DVD case clearly displays a M rating and warns of “Coarse language and themes”. One of the things I really like about the film is the rawness of it all. Nothing is censored, you get everything as it comes out of these athletes mouths, warts and all. However that’s obviously not for everyone.

To me this DVD is like the “When We Were Kings” for Australian BMX. It’s insightful, emotional, heart breaking, and inspiring. It’s a shame there won’t be another one for the lead up to the 2012 Olympics.

Get your copy today at phirebird.com/our-products/bmx-dvd-movies/pedal-to-the-medal-dvd

Rating 20/20:

Value for money:5/5
Action:5/5
Entertainment:5/5
Looks/Finish:5/5

Comments:

  • This is a great film that you could watch over and over
  • While there are lots of interviews there’s also a lot of racing footage from some of the biggest events in the world, plenty of action if you don’t care for the interviews
  • It’s one of those movies that is hard to leave, I’ve seen it twice in the first few days I had it, start to end
  • While some of the footage is a little rough, it’s only a couple of small segments, the team at Factory 47 did an awesome job with a tiny budget

Reviewed by Shane Jenkins/bmxultra.com July 30 2012

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