Projects in Development
John's Bicycle (2017)
Writer/ Director: Colin Riendeau
Director of Photography: Kes Tagney
Production Company: No Water Studios
Format: Feature Film
Type: Road movie / Romance / Adventure
Running Time: 90 minutes
Status: In Development.
Set in the 1980’s against the backdrop of a reforming Quebec, John is caught between two divergent worlds that define his identity. The world shaped by his francophone Catholic mother, and the anglophone world of his father. A man torn at a moment of Quebec’s ‘Quiet Revolution’ where he must choose between the two or remain conflicted. Rather then choose, John decides to ride his bicycle across Europe to India to find himself.
Along the way the road tests John both physically and mentally as he rides through Iceland, the UK, across Holland and down through France to the Alps. Yet nothing prepared him for the hatred and Xenophobia that John runs into while riding through Yugoslavia, when he is ambushed by children throwing rocks in a small village. In his escape John is pursued by one of the boys who has commandeered a horse and is using a slingshot to menace him as he flees. During the chase the boy falls off the horse and breaks his leg. Unbeknownst to John the boy happens to be the son of the local police chief who blames him for the incident and throws him in Jail.
Cold, sick and hungry, John is released without a penny in his pocket. With only one way to go: he makes his way south to a small village in Northern Greece, where he recuperates in the hands of the only person he knows - Haitho his university roommate’s childhood friend whom John has been pen-paling. Haitho too is caught between two worlds. The world of her busy, modern social life in the nearby city Thessaloniki, and the very traditional village life of her family in the mountains of Halkidiki. After meeting John, Haitho must choose which life she wants to live: the rural life preferred by her family and community, or the life that will let her follow her heart and dreams.
John soon falls in love with Haitho, but there’s a problem: John is a foreigner and Haitho’s family and the entire village strongly dislike him and his strange North American customs.
After a few weeks it becomes clear that John no longer intends to continue on his travel toward India and instead desires to remain in the village. Wanting him to leave, Haitho’s family tells John he can no longer stay in their house. So John pitches his tent on ‘Goat Mountain’ overlooking the village and sets out to win Haitho’s heart, only to be thwarted at every turn.
Hoping to get him to leave, Haitho’s family comes up with a plan and set John on a series of tasks that he must complete that grow more and more Herculean - hoping that he would simply give up and go away:
A plumbing project that backfires, creating a stream of problems that soil John’s image in the village. An encounter with a ram in the fields above the village when Haitho’s father decides John needs to learn to tend the sheep.
A swarm of bees that menace the village square after a miscommunication surrounding the movement of the churches new bee hives that gets blamed on John. A bicycle ride to a remote mountain village to procure a special type of beans where John is mistaken for a robber and beaten by the old woman whose house he was sent to - only to find out later that the beans are very common in that region and can be bought at the grocery store.
A hike to the top of Mount Olympus to procure a stone from the summit of Mytikus, where John becomes trapped in a sudden snowstorm and must seek shelter in a refuge, only to become known throughout the region as “the man who carries his bicycle through snow.”
With each task, John brings his North American ingenuity and creativity towards tackling the obstacles at hand, and with each successful return, Haitho slowly starts to fall for him. Each successful return brings Haitho closer to having to choose which life she wants to live: To be with the penny-less foreigner - disliked by all - who would do anything for her, or to break things off and settle with a local guy whom she has no interest in. Rather then choose, Haitho sends John on an impossible mission. She tells John that if he has serious intentions for her that he must procure a letter of recommendation from the Orthodox Monks on Mount Athos proving that he is a person of good character suitable for marrying her,. It is only then that Haitho’s family and the village will accept him, without it there is no point returning.
So John sets out on his bicycle on a two hundred kilometer ride across Halkidiki towards “The Holly Mountain” of Mont Athos to persuade the monks. Yet Mont Athos proves to be a formidable challenge: It is guarded by a fence going sea to sea separating peninsula from the mainland, requiring a visa John doesn’t have to enter. Monasteries are built into rocky cliffs where the Monks adhere to Byzantine period practices with no physical comforts. And most of all: they don't like foreigners, especially Roman Catholics. Through a series of hair raising adventures John is able to do the impossible, convincing the Monks of his good intentions and returns on his bicycle to the village with the letter in hand, much to Haitho’s surprise
This is a fantastic and mythic story of a foreigner traveling through Europe encountering xenophobia and hardship at every turn, yet through tremendous odds, is able to find love and acceptance. It is an odyssey that is a subtle allegory to the current situation Europe finds itself in today, choosing to reveal itself retrospectively as a ‘story’ a grandfather tells to his grandson while sitting in the garden of the house where the two first met so many years before.
John's Bicycle is my interpretation of a true story that was told to me by my uncle while visiting him in Krini about how he met my aunt in a small village outside of Thessaloniki. This film is whole heartedly inspired by the life of my uncle, his adventures, and his overall way of storytelling which I hope to capture in this film. It’s a story that I fell in love while spending time in Greece and I would like to bring it to the screen because I feel that it is a story that is universal to everyone regardless of background or cultural identity. The goal is to create a story that allows the audience to lose themselves on a romantic youthful adventure that everyone can relate to.
- Colin Riendeau