You’ve probably heard of Spirit Level Film by now — one of the most exciting and well-worth-looking-into production companies to be found in Europe. But what you most likely don’t know is that the company has acquired the UK rights for a highly original and unusual documentary, titled Racing Dreams. The topic that writer-director Marshall Curry (Street Fight) has chosen to explore is very much out of the ordinary, and the entire philosophy behind the documentary differs greatly from anything we’ve seen so far. For these reasons and many more, Racing Dreams deserves several viewings and in-depth discussion.
The documentary follows three children, Annabeth, Josh and Brandon, of ages 11,12 and 13 years old, whose shared dream and life’s goal is to become the next top NASCAR racer. With this serving as the film’s chief background, the audience is let into the children’s lives, their families, the problems they are faced with, their ambitions, determination, frustration and success, while they compete for the World Karting Association’s National Championship. On their way to professional racing, these three kids get to have a good preview of what the life of a racer entails, the sacrifices, hard work and also excitement, adrenaline rush and self-fulfillment.
The choice of theme and subjects is particularly interesting. Very rarely does a filmmaker wish to look into the life of someone unknown, let alone anyone of such a young age. On the same note, even more rarely does a film decide to shed light onto a topic such as this — as one would expect that the audience of this early racing stage would be greatly limited. However, filmmaker Marshall Curry turns a bunch of kids racing for the World Karting Association’s Nationals, into something extraordinary and he seems to be doing so effortlessly.
What Curry does is that he puts his trust into these three children, their fearlessness and they don’t fail him. He makes a film about them before they get to shine, before they gain fame and recognition, before racing becomes a job. He knows they will get where they need to go, he recognises talent when he sees it and gives his audience a very early behind-the-scenes up-close-and-personal documentary with the future top NASCAR racers. And this is what makes Racing Dreams so interesting. It’s a prequel, just not after everything has exploded, and not after the filmmaker has realized that there is indeed a wide audience for his story.
A brave filmmaker and a unique documentary. Marshall Curry follows Annabeth, Josh and Brandon on their road to adulthood and self-discovery, gets everyone involved in their struggles and achievements, allows his subjects to become intimate as well as playful, captures both their moments of maturity and mischievousness and gives us a heartwarming coming-of-age tale that reminds us that absolutely every story needs to be told. For those who enjoyed Marilyn Agrelo’s Mad Hot Ballroom, Racing Dreams is definitely one to seek out.