Nuvo Newsweekly

Sam reviews ‘Racing Dreams’

by Sam Watermeier

3.5 stars, (NR)

As they look through bills, the parents become overwhelmed with dread. They come to the realization that they’ve invested over $100,000 in their 12-year-old son’s kart-racing exploits. A lesser documentary would skip over moments like these, but Racing Dreams is far from a mere inspirational tale. It unfolds as a disturbing look at lost innocence and America’s obsession with success.

Racing Dreams follows three young racers who could not be more different in demeanor. Brandon Warren is a hardhead with a hot temper. Josh Hobson is a quiet, reserved perfectionist. And Annabeth Barnes is a fun-loving dreamer. They all share one trait — fierce determination to be successful.

We soon discover that this drive and ambition comes directly from their parents. Their humble surroundings (rotting houses, jobs in factories) compel them to push their kids to strive for a better life. Racing Dreams turns into an exploration of those pressures kids face.
In America, most kids and their families are constantly thinking about the future. To them, the present is just a preamble. We live in an era in which success comes from either having a college education or exploiting a skill as early as childhood. The rush to attain a steady career often denies children, well, a childhood. “I don’t want racing to keep my daughter from being a kid,” Annabeth’s father says. “But at the same time, she has to make sacrifices if she wants to do it for a living”.

Racing Dreams is not an earth-shattering, revelatory documentary. Parents push their kids, kids push themselves, we see this everyday. However, the film is unique in underplaying the inspirational moments and highlighting the more troubling ones. You wouldn’t expect that from a film about children. Nor would you expect the director (Marshall Curry) to present the children in such a raw, honest light. We see Brandon suspended from school for fighting, we see Josh treat his trophies with more respect than his parents.

All in all, Racing Dreams is an engaging film. No wonder it was one of NUVO’s “Must-See” picks during last year’s Indianapolis International Film Festival.

This film, which won 2009′s IIFF Audience Award, will sweep screens here once again. It opens Friday, May 28 at select theaters.