Half the Road, directed by Kathryn Bertine, chronicles female professional cyclists’ fight for parity
By Clara Beard
Three days before Tour de France organizers would announce the inclusion of a women’s circuit race on the Champs-Elysées in Paris before the final stage, 500 people poured into Tucson’s Loft cinema on a Wednesday night to watch the premiere of Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls & Power of Women’s Professional Cycling.
In between congratulatory hugs, last-minute backstage instructions, and deep breaths, director Kathryn Bertine, a pro cyclist with SKN, took a few moments to revisit what inspired her to document female pro cyclists’ struggle to make a living from their sport.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was the right person for this because I can be somewhat on a neutral ground,” said Bertine, also an ESPN columnist and author.
Because Bertine races for St. Kitts & Nevis, a small independent nation that doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of a governing body within the sport, she felt she would be the ideal storyteller. Through two campaigns on Indiegogo, supporters from around the world collectively contributed almost $10,000 for the project.
“That’s home stays and eating at Waffle House, doing whatever we had to do to make it work,” Bertine says. “But I think the amazing thing in the entire fund-raising campaign was watching the donations come in from across the world, which really told me, hey, people want to see this film. That was mind-boggling, and then I really got nervous,” Bertine said. “This needs to be good. This needs to be great.”
Based on the sellout audience’s reception, it was. Throughout the evening, the crowd cheered, gasped, and booed, completely engaged by the one hour, 40-minute journey through the sport’s history and development and a look at the issues it now faces.
Bertine and her crew interviewed dozens of athletes, past and present, along with officials from the International Cycling Union (UCI) and national cycling federations, to illuminate the state of women’s cycling and drive home a message: Parity for women in cycling is long overdue.
Without the help of the UCI, however, the fight for equality could remain a long one. The documentary doesn’t shirk from highlighting the former UCI leadership’s controversial attitude on women in the sport, which Bertine acknowledges could open the film up to some criticism.
“If we want to make change and evoke change we have to show people what has been,” she says. “So I’m hopeful the UCI will look at that and say, ‘We need to make the future better for women’s cycling.’ If they want to criticize as well, that’s surely a possibility,” she said.
Bertine hopes that others will be inspired to make films of their own focusing specifically on any one of the many issues she touched on in Half The Road.
“We have to push forth. We have to use social media to our advantage,” Bertine says. “It might seem like we have to trumpet everything extra loud now, but there will come a time where [equality] will be the norm.”
Half the Road will be shown during the Richmond International Film Fest in Virginia on March 1 at 10 a.m. in the Byrd Theater. Information on upcoming screenings and news can be found at www.halftheroad.com.
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Watch the trailer: