Directed by Eva Küpper
Documentary | 90 minutes | Belgium | 2021 | English | SPECIAL SCREENING
As a teenager, Australian Ben Felten was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease that left him fully blind by his mid-thirties. Despite enormous risks, Ben is determined to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a professional motorcycle racer. Together with former Grand Prix champion Kevin Magee, he sets out to break the world blind motorcycle land speed record and become the fastest blind motorcycle rider in the world.
When they meet young thirteen year-old Jed, who suffers from a similar eye condition as Ben, their journey becomes even more persistent. Meticulously prepared, Ben challenges both himself as well as society's perspectives on disability. Without self-pity and armed with an arsenal of humour, he refuses to give up on his dreams. Pushing his limits to the extreme, he tries to make people see him as the whole, extraordinary human being that he is.
Being an avid motorcycle rider as well as passionate documentary filmmaker, I had been waiting for a long time for the right story and the right moment to combine my passion for film and motorcycles. But I never expected to find a story that comes as close to my heart as this one. When I was a child, my older brother Hans became disabled after a terrible accident, and the inevitable difficulties and struggles he has since encountered on his way through life have become an important part of our relationship.
Fifteen years ago, I got my first motorcycle and I immediately started traveling and riding on many of the iconic European racetracks. One day, I heard about the Australian Ben Felten, a blind motorcyclist who wanted to break a land speed record. Knowing fully well the impact that disability can have on one’s life, I just couldn’t believe my ears. I couldn’t begin to imagine what it must be like to ride in the complete darkness without being able to depend on your eyesight.
To me, Ben was not only challenging himself but also society’s narrow perspective on disability and what is deemed ‘normal’ or ‘feasible’ and took it to a whole other level. Countless questions kept racing through my mind and since this story kept haunting me for months I simply had to act on it and find out more.
Besides my personal motivation, my fascination with this subject is rooted in a love for human resilience and for the stories and feelings that lie hidden behind those people who tend to be brushed aside in our society. I love these stories because they show that we are capable of transcending our individual, limited egos and they remind us how much we have in common with people who appear to be completely different or lead different lives. I have nothing but respect for people who swim against the tide with all their might, who do not hide from themselves or their fears and who manage, in spite of all their problems, to grow and reinvent themselves. It takes so much courage, especially when your life is suddenly turned upside down by some dramatic event and everything you thought you knew disappears into the void.
People like Ben who, with a dogged dose of qualifying humour, keep fighting for their place in life and refuse to give up, even if they will spend the rest of their days in the dark – such people are exceptional. As a human being and a motorcyclist I understand his passion and his tenacity, but at the same time I share the questions and conflicting emotions of his friends and family.
We translated Ben’s story into a very personal, intimate and gripping cinematic experience that will inspire audiences to broaden their views on disability, and not want to miss a second of his daring, humoristic, thrilling journey.
Eva Küpper is a Belgian documentary filmmaker who graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. Her film studies provided a broad background in the tradition of both fiction and documentary filmmaking, which becomes apparent in the incorporation of elements of both styles in her films. Alongside her filmic endeavours, Eva holds a position as lecturer at the Centre for Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Ghent and frequently teaches master classes on documentary filmmaking both in Belgium and abroad.
Ellen De Waele, Elisa Heene
Ben Felten, Kevin Magee
Thijs Van Nuffel
Music & Sound
List of music credits