Senegal’s eco-friendly, travelling bike-cinema

Outdoor film screening during the Cinécyclo Tour of Senegal. Photo courtesy of Cinécyclo
Outdoor film screening during the Cinécyclo Tour of Senegal. Photo courtesy of Cinécyclo


With a pedal-powered generator, a mini-projector, a movie screen and a speaker, the organisation CinéCyclo has been crisscrossing Senegal to offer free outdoor film screenings. The project aims to show movies in isolated villages that don’t usually have access to cinemas, but also to highlight local initiatives that protect the environment.

CinéCyclo, based in Bourgogne, France, was conceived by a young French graphic designer named Vincent Hanrion who was passionate about both cinema and cycling. In 2015 he organised the first CinéCyclo Senegal Tour thanks to an online crowdfunding campaign. The tour, which recently ended, lasted seven months. In total it covered 3,000 kilometres and counted 101 screenings, bringing together more than 10,000 audience members.

Hanrion’s only means of travel was the bicycle, and all the electricity used for the projections was generated with a pedal-operated generator designed in Senegal by a local collaborator. Once the tour ended, Hanrion returned home, leaving behind him a new organisation – CinéCyclo Senegal – which aims to continue the activities he started.

A promotional video for CinéCyclo Senegal Tour. Photo courtesy of CinéCyclo.

Yoro Diallo, 25, is a young Senegalese man who met Hanrion at the University of Dakar in 2015, when he presented the CinéCyclo project to students. Diallo promptly told Hanrion he wanted to be part of the team. Diallo grew up in the southwest of Senegal in a small, isolated village without electricity, and he was completely taken with the project.

“Every film highlights a positive environmental initiative that’s easy to put in action”

When Vincent presented his project, I understood right away what an impact it could have on my village and others like it. First of all, I had never been to a cinema myself. For a while there were cinemas in Senegal, but once TV became widespread they disappeared almost completely. Plus, I grew up in an isolated village. We didn't have electricity or access to information. We didn’t know what happened in the rest of the world. [Editor’s note: According to the World Bank, in 2012, only 56.5 percent of Senegal's population had access to electricity.]

Film screening during the CinéCyclo Senegal Tour. Courtesy of Cinécyclo.

“Workshops are held after each screening”

The films that were shown were also very important. The majority of them highlighted a positive environmental initiative that had already been put in place in an African country and that would be easy to imitate. For example, there was a film we showed several times about an ‘improved stove’ that had been built in Malawi. It’s a cooking stove made with a single opening that conserves heat longer and thus needs less wood for heating. We also showed films that explained the consequences of deforestation. Certain regions in Senegal are particularly affected by this problem and could soon become desert zones. [Editor’s note: This is the case in Casamance, where wood trafficking to China is leading to deforestation.]

In total, 101 film screenings were organised in villages across Senegal. Courtesy of Cinécylo.

After each film screening, we would hold a small workshop to help villagers build their own improved stoves. We also showed a film about how to make organic fertiliser out of food waste, ash or animal excrement. People have to become conscious of the impact their activities have on nature and to improve them.


“Cinema is a fun way to bring information to people”

In fact, these films allow us to show that there are alternatives for protecting the environment and that they’re easy to implement. But we have other kinds of movies, too: one is about the importance of education for girls, which we showed in several places.

Part of the CinéCyclo Senegal Tour team. Courtesy of Cinécyclo.

Our mode of transportation was a very important part of the project. First of all, the bike allowed us to go to places that aren’t accessible by car. Second, it demonstrated an independent method of electricity production.

Sometimes I get calls from villagers who ask me to come back with one of the films about health or about how to fish without using up all the available fishing stock. There’s a real need for information, and cinema is a fun way to bring it to people.

We’re thinking about opening branches of CinéCyclo in various isolated regions in Senegal. They would be managed by volunteers who would continue to spread information about the environment and renewable energy.

The team also offered films for kids. Courtesy of Cinécyclo.

Hanrion, the project’s founder, is hoping to develop the project in other countries. Between August and September 2016, he will be doing a tour in France’s Burgundy region to talk about his trip to Senegal. A CinéCyclo Tour going from Canada all the way to Argentina will also be organised starting in August, with the same goals: meeting local environmental groups, showing engaging films and sharing ideas.