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MAMIL

Australian, Documentary, Festival, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

They’re a familiar sight for most of us: the peloton of amateur cyclers gathering on early mornings and weekends, wending their way through the roads and highways of our home towns and cities. Lycra-clad cyclists racing together come rain, hail or shine in a somewhat atavistic display of warrior brotherhood. Of course, there are plenty of women who ride too, though the subjects of this homegrown documentary are predominantly male: Middle Aged Men In Lycra (MAMIL).

It’s not a term that has achieved common household use, but it’s been seized upon as the moniker of choice for these men, perhaps because it sounds almost derogatory in nature, the flippancy belying the individual stories of the pain of mid-life, the commonality of the bewildering existence of the career-person and the yearn for community and substantive connection with other humans.

The subjects are varied: Perth and Adelaide-based charity riders as well as a variety of cyclists and groups throughout Australia, the US and the UK. War stories are shared, describing the ongoing fracas between motorists and cyclists and some disturbingly life-threatening road injuries sustained in the pursuit of challenging oneself mentally and physically amidst ‘the group’. Several men describe their personal battles through periods of severe depression, one speaking candidly of his suicidal thoughts at one point in his life, another dealing with throat cancer treatment, both finding strength and solace in their cycling communities.

It’s engaging viewing, though it’s not really about cycling, is it? There is strong evidence to suggest that the reason the average human-monkey crumbles under the weight of the stresses of modern life is that we are simply not meant to exist in expansive groups of disconnected, fragmented individuals cramming into soulless metropolitan sprawls. For thousands of years, we lived in small communities, hunted food and shared stories in small groups, most importantly; we suffered together and shared our human experience, in small groups. These instincts are strong in us, they call to us amidst the overwhelming and rapid advance of our societal structures; under it all we’re all still cave dwellers.