Making a documentary has to be the hardest challenge in filmmaking.
Even to make a shitty one would be tough. Mountains of footage to edit, piles of photos to comb through, and a large list of potential people to interview that you can only hope will provide some interesting insight on the subject; and if you’re really lucky, a couple of clever quotes. Then once compiled, spending years assembling it all together into a cohesive story.
I say this like I have any idea, but I’m just guessing. I have no clue how to make a documentary and would probably botch the simplest task in even starting the project. That said, I am very judgmental of other people’s work being that most of the time I think documentaries are a mess. A great story can end up dull and forgettable with a director that is out of their league, and a smart director can make the lamest personality shine with the right soundtrack and a handful of salvageable lines.
Thankfully for the BMX world, Go Fast Pull Up: the Jimmy LeVan Story is the whole package. Since I’m rarely on the internet, I knew nothing of this project until I received an email from Props about its release on DVD and bluray. I ordered it within the hour and received it five days later the evening before leaving to go to a BMX national. I watched it in full until 1:00am that night and then woke up consumed with it at seven the next morning and watched it again before we left.
Director and editor Chris Rye has been putting out great work forever, but I had no clue he was capable of this level of storytelling. The film is a tight, masterfully put together piece of work. It follows Jimmy LeVan’s life in BMX from his younger days racing through his greatest triumphs and hardest slams. Rye even went as far as re-visiting and re-shooting the locations of some of the most iconic gaps of Jimmy’s career. Seeing these monsters filmed in HD and coupled with aerial drone shots cements them into legend and gives you a real look at what kind of rider it took to conquer them. A couple of locations have Jimmy onsite present day, walking you through his setup and the thought process he was going through on the day.
Jimmy LeVan is a personality who could have thrived in any venue of life. He’s just kind of magnetic. The adoration from everyone interviewed speaks volumes. All legends in their own right (including Susie and Moto Moms), the love and respect for Jimmy is unquestionable. Todd Lyons is hysterical describing the formation of the mid-90’s Huffy team and how LeVan was a “weird” fit. And John Paul Rogers has one of the funniest lines in the movie about when Jimmy woke up after being knocked unconscious at an early ABA dirt jumping comp.
Rye does a fantastic job with LeVan’s youth, his S&M years, the Metal Bikes years, Jimmy’s head injury and the two week coma that followed. There are no awkward interviews, no wandering story arcs, and no unnatural narration. Just a solid account of a fuckin’ rad BMX’er who touched and inspired many.
Jimmy LeVan’s story is worth hearing. He deserves to be remembered. He deserves this caliber of a documentary. Chris Rye deserves much appreciation for layering this much passion and labor into a film of this quality. This is the ‘Church Gap’ of BMX documentaries. There are so many more stories in BMX that deserve to be told and if we’re really lucky, Rye will tell us some more.
– Jeff Mozer
Order a copy of Go Fast Pull Up and support independent filmmaking in BMX.