The Weekend Warrior: May 21 – 23
by: Edward Douglas


Plot Summary: This doc takes a look at three kids from the ages of 11 to 13 competing in the World Karting Association’s National Series with dreams of eventually racing NASCAR, following in the tire tracks of some of the greatest NASCAR drivers who previously competed in the championship. These dreams are hard to come by, especially as they face their own adolescence and making tough decisions that come with it.

The first time I saw Marshall Curry’s amazing doc was at the Tribeca Film Festival last year where it won one of the festival’s audience awards along with City Island, “Chosen One” from a few weeks back. The follow-up to Curry’s acclaimed doc Street Fight, about the battle for the mayorship of Newark, New Jersey, fought on the streets by Cory Booker, Racing Dreams is a similarly strong doc that follows the progress of three very different young people who are at the point in their lives whether they have to decide whether they want to race cars as a hobby or if they will do what it takes to make a career out of racing.

Without any idea how any of their stories might play out, Curry seemingly lucked his way into finding three very different subjects who create a strong contrast as they interact with their families and each other. The movie follows a year in their lives as they take part in the Go-Kart championship with dreams of one day racing NASCAR. It’s a pricey journey that costs their parents quite a lot of money to support their kids in terms of buying equipment and traveling to races.

The most interesting journey is that of 11-year-old Annabeth Barnes who is just as ambitious as the boys, but as she reaches puberty and starts seeing boys as more than competition, her interest in racing starts to wane despite the amount of money being spent on her career. 13-year-old Brandon Warren comes from a poor dysfunctional family including a few members who have spent time in jail. He’s a strong racer who needs to learn to control his temper on the track, but even his natural racing abilities may be hindered by the lack of funds to support his dream. Then there’s 12-year-old Josh Hobson, an articulate and smart kid who already knows how to pimp his endorsements during interviews, and clearly seems to be the guy who has the best chance of making it. All three kids are really outspoken and have enough charisma to make them great doc subjects, keeping you interested in their journey to try to be the top racer.

If you’re aware of how obsessed people in certain regions of the country are with NASCAR, you can understand where they’re coming from, and here are three kids who want nothing more than to be racecar drivers. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more in play than just being able to drive well, including family drama and the expenses that surround the sport.

Curry’s just an amazing filmmaker who knows exactly how to pace the movie so it isn’t just talking heads, having his cameras present for a lot of great moments, including a budding romance between two of the subjects. Through a series of open interviews, Curry is really able to get into the mindset of these three kids and their families, to show how their relationships change over the course of this difficult year. These testimonials are together with amazing footage of these Go-Karts whipping around the track at 70 to 80 miles per hour using great rockin’ music to keep it exciting. (Curry uses a lot of The National, one of my favorite local bands, so points for that, too!) The camerawork throughout is very impressive, never looking at all like the typical way races are shot for television.

If you’re into NASCAR racing or competitive docs like Spellbound, Curry’s film will certainly be one you won’t want to miss. It’s one of the most riveting and insightful docs you’re likely to see this year as it pulls you into the lives of these 11-to-13-year-olds, that you’ll leave the movie wanting to see what the future holds in store for them.

Racing Dreams opens in select cities this weekend, mainly in the South and Midwest, then racing country Indiana on May 28, Oregon on June 4, then finally New York on June 11.