Rising documentary filmmaker Barbara Bustillo-Cogswell rides high on the hog

"Yeah, it's true there a lot of legitimate people out there that like to ride that enjoy the Harley experience," says the cop, who requested anonymity. "You've got some great organizations out there that enjoy riding. But you've got gangs. And I don't care what ABATE says, I don't care what anybody else says."

ABATE members who talked to New Times didn't want to be quoted saying anything about the One Percenters.

"If you cross these gang members," he continues, "you are going to pay a price for it, it doesn't matter who you are. And crossing them is whatever they perceive as crossing them. You don't even know, it may be something you are totally blind to. They can only keep their image up for so long."

A sampling of patches and colors.
Paolo Vescia
A sampling of patches and colors.
Peaceful biking: Arizona Freedom Rally Y2K.
Paolo Vescia
Peaceful biking: Arizona Freedom Rally Y2K.

Mark McPhearson, a member of the Cave Creek chapter of the Hells Angels, says, "I know that if you push me, you better be prepared. We don't go out of our way to push anybody. But the one thing you can say about the Hells Angels is we'll stand up. And that is so important. . . .

". . . The cops can't come up with anything. We do know for a fact that they are frustrated. They can't find us doing anything so they know we are up to something. . . . We're not up to anything."

Bustillo-Cogswell is quick to point out, "I didn't set out to make bikers heroes. I just set out to say these are people I run across, these are the voices and the things that they are doing. I mean, I didn't set any of this up in that sense. This is what they are doing. I've seen them carry big teddy bears into a shelter home full of kids that have been abused sexually by their parents. But these are the guys bringing in the toys and the few extra bucks and the loaf of bread."

How does she answer to someone who may say her documentary may tacitly endorse the behavior of a select few who genuinely fit the cliché of the misogynistic, barbaric, drug-dealing biker?

"I've known some lawyers and judges and producers that are really, really awful people. I've never met a biker that I could say, you know, that guy is an abuser, that guy's a rapist, that guy's a drug addict. I can't say that about any biker I have met. I could say it about a few lawyers I know and so on. Again, it's that stereotype about what people assume through something someone else has told them what these people are like."

Bustillo-Cogswell says her film is "trying to point out that they are human beings, and that is what people forget. Because a guy is wearing something that says Hells Angels on the back is doing so as a personal decision. That is his business.

"No, what I am saying is if he walks into a restaurant, it's not right to say he can't walk in there because he has on those colors. And a person shouldn't have to cross to the other side of the road when they see a Hells Angel coming toward them. My point is about people being able to look at each other as human beings instead of what they wear and what they don't wear, whether they ride a Harley, take a bus or fly their own jet.

"And there's attitude, of course," she continues, explaining what happens to some when they hop on a hog. "When a woman slips on a pair of sexy pumps, I'll tell you there's an attitude that comes with it."

Bustillo-Cogswell's project is gaining steam despite the fact that her self-touting skills -- necessary tools for monetary success in the entertainment business -- are next to nil.

Split Screen producer Amy Elliot took an interest in Bustillo-Cogswell after reading about her documentary work on a biker Web site. She pitched her story idea, then flew out from New York City and shot hours and hours of Bustillo-Cogswell in action. From the monthly AZCMC meeting to the Freedom Rally at the state Capitol, Elliot came away impressed, calling Bustillo-Cogswell "the perfect subject."

"I pitched this to the people at Split Screen by saying what it was that impressed me about her," Elliot says. "I didn't have to put a real spin on it. It just seemed perfect for Split Screen. I mean, Barbara is the epitome of an independent filmmaker. Just the idea that her commitment and her independent status made her a perfect subject. To have her doing this for four years and her passion for the project. That's really what we love on the show. . . .

"Then what I thought was interesting was the idea that she was giving a voice to these people that I never thought of as voiceless. I never realized the discrimination that bikers feel. And not just discrimination from the average Joe, but the way that they felt squeezed by legislation. By the anti-gang laws and the helmet laws and things like that. They really feel that their rights are being infringed upon. She's made an unbelievably good case for it. And it is true. And there are real stereotypes that the average American brings to these longhaired, scruffy guys who stand over six feet and wear leather and ride motorcycles and the tough-looking women that go with them."

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