RACING DREAMS interview (with director Marshall Curry) and review

By Mark Walters

I recently got a chance to see a private screening of RACING DREAMS, a documentary about the competitive world of Go-Kart racing. Soak that in for a minute. Now I know watching a movie about Go-Kart racing may not sound like thrills and excitement, but believe me this film does not disappoint. Curry took a world I knew little to nothing about, and opened my eyes to what really goes on with young teenagers than become fascinated with this sport. Please check out my review below. I was also fortunate enough to talk directly with Marshall about making the film, and you can listen to the interview HERE – either click that link to open your media player, or right-click and download the MP3 file (also available through iTunes). In the interview, Curry talks about finding his subjects and following them around for hundreds and hundreds of hours. It must be incredibly daunting to make a documentary like this, and know when and where to trim the fat. It’s all so engaging, I’m not sure which parts of these kid’s lives you’d actually want to leave out.

RACING DREAMS is the story of three young teenagers (or in one case almost-teenagers) who share a passion for Go-Kart racing. The world they immerse themselves in is very much a pre-cursor to Nascar and becoming a professional race car driver. There’s Brandon Warren – a country boy being raised by his grandfather (while his father does prison time), who has a lot of heart and skill, but seems to be constantly trying to evade the negative shadow of his dad. Annabeth Barnes is an 11-year-old girl who is growing up fast, surrounded by passionate and supportive parents, and poised to be a sort of beauty queen of the racing circuit (think Danica Patrick as a young girl). Last but not least is Joshua Hobson, a dedicated and almost overly-professional young man who not only mimics the behavior and mannerisms of racing greats like Jeff Gordon, he practically channels them when making even the most casual conversation. Director Marshall Curry observes these young adults as they compete in various races, some moving up in ranks, while others fall below their own norm. Away from the action, we even get to see a budding teenage romance between Brandon and Annabeth, though it’s hard to imagine anything taking precedence over their racing obsession. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the documentary comes in the last few minutes, in which Curry shows us where all of this is ultimately headed.

We were all young once, and at some point found ourselves caught up in something that was special to us, and that gave us a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Watching RACING DREAMS is like observing one’s own childhood through slightly different eyes… and of course adjusting the passion being followed to that of Go-Kart racing. Curry manages to keep this film inspiring, moving, and mesmerizing, all the while never taking things to any sort of over-dramatic level. He lets life speak for itself, and it’s fascinating to watch. One of the things I love about documentaries is their ability to pull back the curtain on a world most of us know nothing about. In some ways RACING DREAMS isn’t unlike watching enthusiastic cheerleader moms coaching their daughters, or football families obsessed with going to state. You can see the drive and passion that fuels these youngsters, and while none of it may be familiar, all of it is relatable. I thoroughly enjoyed the film for everything it showed us, and for everything it didn’t fall victim to. Curry should be applauded for turning in a masterfully told expose on this realm, and I can honestly say this is one film I’d strongly recommend to just about any age group. Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) is one of the producing partners on the movie, and it’s easy to see why he’d have faith in the project, as he no doubt found it as inspirational as just about any audience would. I asked Marshall if he’d have any interest in revisiting these three some years down the road to see how their lives have changed… or in many ways stayed the same, just became more grand. One can only imagine. My review, in short? Just see it. You’ll love it.