From now until New Year’s day, the POV Blog will be posting about great documentaries from the POV archives. Rent one at the local video store or via Netflix to watch with your friends and family during the holiday season.
Looking for a quirky “demolition-derby love story” for your holiday movie rental list? Try Jesse Moss‘ Speedo!
This award-winning documentary looks at the promising racing career and troubled family life of Ed “Speedo” Jager, one of the nation’s top demolition-derby drivers. Trapped in a failing marriage, Speedo channels life’s frustrations onto the track, hoping to parlay his talents into a “real” racing career. The film captures Speedo’s collisions and confrontations during one tumultuous year as he struggles to achieve his dreams on the track and succeed as a husband, a father and a man. When he falls for Liz, a racetrack official from New Jersey, his life takes a surprising turn.
Here’s the complete synopsis:
“It’s an addiction,” says Ed ‘Speedo’ Jager about the dangerous, smash-’em up stock-car demolition derbies in which he revels, “like nitro-methane through your veins.” And Jager, one of the demo derby tour’s top drivers — and one of its most controversial — takes to the track with all the demon intensity and quick-trigger aggression needed to win in the demo-derby world.
But Jager doesn’t need chemicals to fuel his competitiveness: Jager is driven by a life-long passion for stock cars, the dream of becoming a “real” racing driver, and a simmering anger at whatever or whomever stands in his way. Off-track, however, the film discovers a different man, still intense but one wrestling with a failed marriage while determined to be a good father to his two sons — a man willing to compromise, “to make the best of what you have.”
Filmed in action-packed vérité-style, Speedo lets Jager do the talking and driving, while his wife, sons, and racetrack pals fill in the perspective. Moss followed Jager through the 1999 demolition-derby season, beginning with derbies at Speedo’s home track, Long Island’s Riverhead Raceway, and culminating at the National Demolition Derby Championship in Fellsmere, Florida.
One of the pleasures of Speedo is the inside look it provides at the quirky world of demolition-derby competition, a singularly American sport with few rules and less organization. It is also a sport of amateurs; cash prizes are too modest even to cover the costs of repairing and re-destroying wildly painted and progressively mangled stock cars. The drivers’ motivations seem to be an amalgam of the American love of automobiles, the thrill of smashing things up, and the “ordinary” grease monkey’s revenge on obscurity.
Love turns Speedo several times around. Will he bring the same ferocity to the track? Will he act on his dream of becoming a bona fide NASCAR driver? Will the boys be all right? Can Speedo find happiness in New Jersey?
Speedo premiered on POV in August of 2004. After you watch the film and want to find out what’s happened to Speedo since the film was shot, or want to delve further in Speedo’s world, check out the Speedo website.