Afghan Cycles follows a new generation of young Afghan women who are pedaling their own revolution, aggressively challenging gender and cultural barriers using the bicycle as a literal and metaphorical vehicle for freedom, empowerment and social change.
In 2013, Liv – the global women’s cycling brand – helped foot the bill for this documentary. The aim was to make a short, sweet, feel-good film about a cycling revolution in one of the last places where women were still forbidden to ride. As with any revolution, there were forces at work conspiring to shut it down. But Shannon Galpin didn’t expect them to come from within. The team, which had already faced threats of violence as well as actual attacks, imploded under crushing amounts of internal corruption. The short, feel-good film became a full-length documentary five years in the making.
The story of the women coaches is especially touching as their age affords them a unique perspective: a life before the current conflict and a closer connection to Afghanistan’s past as a very progressive country.
The film follows women in two distinct areas of Northern Afghanistan. The bustling cityscape of Kabul is shown in contrast to the more rural Bamyan province and it was interesting to see how the cyclists were received in each place.
The slice-of-life moments really stand out as the young women go about their daily lives: studying at university, cycling on open roads, living in the comfort of warm family homes with relationships to supportive and encouraging men. This imagery provides an important counter-narrative to the media’s often-negative portrayal of Afghanistan.