Marshall Curry’s ‘Racing Dreams’ Premieres on POV, 23 February

[23 February 2012]

By Cynthia Fuchs

PopMatters Film and TV Editor

“If I’m not racing, I’m not happy,” says Brandon Warren, “That’s all I really care about.” Currently a world-class kart driver, Brandon hopes to break into NASCAR when he’s old enough. His grandparents, Katy and Phil, share his enthusiasm, and as they travel to races during the World Karting Season, they spend their time with other, equally dedicated families. Brandon is one of three kids profiled in Racing Dreams, directed by Marshall Curry (whose If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front is a 2012 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary). Astute and engaging, Racing Dreams shapes the families’ experiences into an increasingly complicated story, about how kids grow up and how adults affect them.

As well, the documentary shows how this interlocking process is influenced by a wide-ranging media culture (including this film, which makes mini-celebrities of its subjects). So, as Brandon says that he “grew up around” racing, owing to Phil’s interest in it, the film shows them watching a race on a tiny TV in their shop, gear and car parts strewn in the background. As they cheer and frown and pump their fists, you’re aware that they’re aware of the camera hovering nearby. Or again, you watch Josh Hobson watching Jeff Gordon on TV: “I like to look and see how they do interviews,” Josh says, “And see how, you know, when I get in the bigger stuff, how I would do.” Earnest competitors and experienced performers, well aware of how media images work, the kids and their families help to make this a terrifically engaging movie.

Racing Dreams premieres on PBS’ stellar POV series 23 February, and Curry will participate in a live online Q&A on Friday, the 24th.

See PopMattersreview.

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