Chicago Film Festival: Father and son cycle on health journey in new film 'Bike Vessel'

ByHosea Sanders and Marsha Jordan WLS logo
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Father and son cycle on health journey in new Chicago film
Wednesday is opening night at the Chicago Film Festival and 'Bike Vessel' is one of the most anticipated movies debuting this week.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wednesday is opening night at the Chicago Film Festival and "Bike Vessel" is one of the most anticipated movies debuting this week.

In the film, a father makes a life saving change, that leads to his son joining him on a rigorous bike trip from St. Louis to Chicago.

about the bond of family and well being that endures.

Donnie Seals survived three open heart surgeries and was never expected to reach the age of 71 he is today. He now rides his bike 30 miles a day, and is down to one medication.

"I started riding around the block literally a quarter of a mile, it doesn't have to be cycling, it can be ballroom dancing, bowling, anything to get off the couch and stop eating that bag of potato chips," Seals said.

Seals raised his family in Wheaton. His son, Eric is a Chicago filmmaker who chronicled a grueling bike ride with his dad from St. Louis to Chicago in just four days.

"I think the main thing I learned is that I'm looking at myself in the mirror thirty years from now," Eric said. "He kept saying, 'I wish I knew this when I was younger,' and every time he said that I was like, 'he's talking to me.' I quickly realized that if I don't start making some changes, I am going to go down the same path he went down."

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The film suggests that poor diets among Blacks can be traced back to slavery.

"The sharecroppers and the slaves are having a good breakfast because they're not going to eat until later in the day and we want to make sure you have energy because I'd rather have you out in the field than eating again," Eric said.

It was a challenge for the father and son to tell such an intimate story their family as well.

"I got out of the hospital after a month and I wanted some chocolate," Donnie said. "And my daughter said, 'I can't watch you eat this. You didn't see what we saw...we were there at midnight - trying to see if you were going to make it to the next day.'"

The duo wanted to highlight the narrative about the history of health care for Black people and the inequities involved.

"I have a focus for this to change the lives of Black men because Black men are on the lowest status for almost every health statistic there is," Eric said.

Donnie has a message for anyone who wants to make a change.

"If you're gonna do something, do it now, do it today," he said.

You can see "Bike Vessel" Saturday, Oct. 14and Saturday, Oct. 21 at AMC New City. There's also a free showing Friday, Oct. 20 at the Hamilton Park Cultural Center on West 72nd Street.

The film is also part of the Chicago Film Fest virtual program.

"There is no destination, it's an ongoing journey," Eric said. "It's an ongoing change, so you can live longer and better."