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Film & TV

Adelaide Film Festival review: MAMIL

Film & TV

Middle Aged Men In Lycra – a term synonymous with bulging body parts, weekend jaunts while the rest of the family is left at home and obligatory café coffee shots – hits the big time in this feature-length documentary.

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With co-directors and producers Nickolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe present, as well as many members of featured recreational cycling group Adelaide Fat Boys, the international premiere of the film at GU Film House was on a ride of its own.

Jim Turner, president of the Fat Boys, typifies the strong narrative elements that are replicated across the nation and the world. The empirical Phil Liggett provides the commentary.

A project begun in 2013 as a focus on a year in the life of a Victorian country club soon outgrew this concept as Bird, a self-confessed MAMIL himself, was enamoured by the culture of these road warriors and the term itself gained inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary a year later; there was a much bigger story to tell.

And while Australian, American and English clubs are profiled, the real value is in the personal insights into their members and what drives these riders.

Bird and Sharpe explore multiple themes, revealing there is a lot more to this recreational endeavour than what the acronym implies. This is not just a hobby; it is obsession, intense mateship and, as one MAMIL quipped, a spiritual need.

Tension is built as riders face individual challenges beyond the expected mid-life crisis. Cancer, MS and spinal injuries take precedence over the threats of obesity, anxiety and depression, countered by camaraderie in a duality of health and wellbeing tours.

Competition is rife – with themselves and with each other. However, it is the resilience and accommodating patience of their partners that dwarfs their own irrepressible needs.

All this is well crafted, with cinematic intimacy provided via MAMILCAM, handlebar cam, and shots from an accompanying vehicle. Peter Zakharov, as director of photography, is ably supported by editor Tony Stevens, who melds still shots with moving images designed to mimic the pace and intensity of a ride.

The musical elements from composer Dale Cornelius are strategic and serve to increase our engagement.

MAMILs are a particular breed, predominantly white with disposable incomes that allow for ongoing investment in a “kit” of four-digit value. Within these parameters we meet Hispanic, Christian and gay clubs, along with solo fanatics who cannot get enough.

Like the niche market it reflects, this is a film that will connect with anyone who enjoys a ride but it is also a film that explores the tribal elements of privileged human behaviour.

MAMIL screened as part of the Adelaide Film Festival and is set for wider release early next year. Read more Film Festival stories and reviews here.


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