The Stories Behind a Simple Bike

Bike Repair Shop‘s Stefano Gabbiani imagines a greener future for his hometown in Italy.



Stefano Gabbiani was born in Turin, Italy in 1988. After high school,  he lived and worked in Ireland for one year, graduated in Foreign Languages and Literature, and achieved a Master Degree in International Relations from the University of Turin. Stefano has always been passionate about cinema and for several years he has produced independent works in the field of visual arts, ranging from short fiction films to reportage in the social sphere. In the last two years he has deepened the study and practice of documentary, participating in numerous workshops and creating in the meantime Contromano.


Bike Repair Shop will have its U.S. premiere at the 24th Annual Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. The film screening takes place at Embassy of Italy, Italian Cultural Institute on Thursday, March 17th at 7pm.


DCEFF: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

STEFANO GABBIANI: I’ve always been passionate about film, but over the last few years, I’ve deepened the study and practice of documentary, participating in numerous workshops and creating my first feature film Bike Repair Shop.

DCEFF: What drew you to this particular project?

SG: Bike Repair Shop was conceived as a way out of the heavy environmental and economic crisis that Turin and its citizens are facing. Turin is one of the most polluted cities worldwide and a symbol of modern post-industrial society. In fact, during the 20th century, Turin was always identified as the Italian capital of the automobile industry (Fiat). I tried to imagine a new, possibly greener, identity for my city and my fellow citizens. The recent bike rediscovery seemed to me as a clear and paradoxical emblem of a more sustainable path for the future of Turin. Nowadays, we can see more and more people riding a bike on our roads, both because of the current economic crisis, and also thanks to a new environmental awareness.

Being inspired by all this and by a night viewing of the Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece Bicycle Thieves, I asked myself what kind of lives and stories were behind a simple bike. 
My astonishment was to discover many different people and stories linked with this means of transport, and somehow joined with the great changes happening to the city.

DCEFF: What challenges did you face in the process of producing the project?

SG: Presented at the Cinemambiente Lab 2014, in the context of the CinemAmbiente Festival, Bike Repair Shop began as an independent production between me and the photographer/camera operator, Elisabetta Michienzi. We both wanted to create a movie project about environmental awareness in our city. We decided to focus our work on two bike repair shops after meeting people and realities that inspired a great emotional impact on us. But, from the beginning of the production, we knew that it was going to be a real low-budget movie. Getting funds from the traditional institutions was quite difficult, so we started a crowdfunding campaign in November 2014. The target of 6000 Euros was reached a few days before the deadline. We also received early technical and professional assistance from local freelance and organizations, such as Lacumbia Film and Mufilm. That help was crucial to the film seeing its conclusion.

DCEFF: What made you decide to submit to DCEFF, this year?

SG: CinemAmbiente is part of the Green Film Network, which unites most of the major international environmental film festivals. Gaetano Capizzi, Director of CinemAmbiente, suggested I seriously consider some of the festivals within the Green Film Network in order to submit my film abroad, and DCEEF seemed to be a wonderful opportunity to screen my film at one of the most important environmental festivals in the world. I’m planning to attend the festival, to join the excitement and I can’t wait for it! It’s like a dream for me, considering the starting point of this low-budget production and all the great efforts made in the past two years  to produce my film.

DCEFF: How do you hope audiences will receive your film?

SG: I’d like to warn the audience that the issues addressed in the movie are not specifically about sustainable mobility and what revolves around it. This is not a classical environmental film, it’s more a portrait of the daily life inside two bike repair shops, run by people who are now experiencing new work opportunities and the concrete chance to reinvent themselves by repairing bicycles, even in this period of deep economic crisis. They are, to me, a symbol, a metaphor of strength and release, surrounded by a polluted and in part resigned post-industrial city. I think that the universality of some topics and feelings represented in my film and embodied by the main characters can be appreciated by a wide audience.

DCEFF: What’s the one takeaway that you want potential viewers to walk away with?

SG: I’d like potential viewers to be touched, moved by the personal stories and relations portrayed in the film, but also amused by the natural spontaneity and the cheerfulness, which are part of this documentary. I would like the people who have seen my film to go away in a good mood but thinking about serious subjects.


Register for the Bike Repair Shop screening here.

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