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Amid the Roar of 70-M.P.H. Go-Karts, Director Marshall Curry (The Oscar®-nominated If a Tree Falls and Street Fight) Chronicles Young Love and Family Struggles as Kids Compete in the “Little League” of Professional Racing
“Absorbing . . . Racing Dreams is the unusual sports movie that is more interested in the lives of children. . . . one of the rare documentaries you leave wishing it was a little bit longer.” – Stephen Holden, The New York Times
Award-winning filmmaker Marshall Curry (Oscar®-nominated Street Fight, 2005; Sundance winner If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, 2011), returns to POV in 2012 with Racing Dreams, a chronicle of two boys and a girl who do something extraordinary: They fearlessly race extreme go-karts at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour in pursuit of trophies and, just maybe, careers as NASCAR drivers. And as the youngsters compete on the track, they also navigate the treacherous road from childhood to young adulthood.
Racing Dreams, winner of the Best Documentary Feature Award at the Tribeca Film Festival and executive-produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has its national broadcast premiere on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, at 9 p.m., as a special broadcast on PBS’s POV (Point of View) series. (Check local listings.) The film will also stream in its entirety on POV’s website www.pbs.org/pov/racingdreams Feb. 24 – March 24. American television’s longest-running independent documentary series, POV has won a Special Emmy for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, two International Documentary Association IDA Awards for Best Continuing Series and NALIP’s Corporate Commitment to Diversity Award.
Fondly described as “Talladega Nights meets Catcher in the Rye,” Racing Dreams is a dramatic, funny and sometimes heartbreaking look at the world of NASCAR culture as lived by three young aspirants to race-car glory and their families. The film follows Annabeth Barnes (11 years old), Josh Hobson (12) and Brandon Warren (13) as they compete in the Pavement Series, a yearlong national championship of five races around the country organized by the World Karting Association (WKA).
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The WKA’s races have been a breeding ground for NASCAR racers in the past — Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and others started out racing competitive go-karts — and Brandon, Annabeth and Josh dream of stepping up to the “big leagues,” too.
For each of these young drivers, racing is more than just a hobby. Josh, who started racing when he was 5, grew up in car-country, not far from Flint, Mich. A well-spoken, straight-A student, he studies not only racing strategy, but also the political sensitivity it takes to be the kind of spokesman NASCAR and its sponsors favor. As precocious as he is, however, he doesn’t recognize the financial burden that his passion places on his family: Each race can cost up to $5,000 for equipment and travel.
Annabeth also has racing in her blood. Her Hiddenite, N.C. relatives have been racing cars “since back in the moonshine days,” she explains, and the love of speed has a particular significance at her age: “When you are 11 or 12, your whole life is filled with people telling you what to do. But when you’re racing you make your own decisions. . . . You’re totally independent.” She takes special pleasure in beating the boys in such a male-dominated sport, but as adolescence sets in, she feels torn between her love of racing, which requires her to travel nearly every weekend, and a desire to be a regular kid.
For Brandon, racing is in many ways an escape from a difficult home life in Creedmoor, N.C. “If I’m not racing, I’m not happy,” he says. His parents have wrestled with drugs, and so he lives with his nurturing grandparents in a double-wide trailer filled with racing memorabilia. Talented, funny and charismatic, Brandon also has a hot temper that sometimes gets him into trouble. He is aiming to win the championship that he lost the previous year when he was disqualified for rough driving.
As the tour unfolds, the three young racers step from the sheltered world of childhood into adolescence — discovering romance for the first time, questioning their relationships with their parents and glimpsing the serious obstacles that will threaten their ability to achieve their dreams.
“Some people might see car racing as a surprising subject for a PBS documentary,” says director-producer Curry, whose other films have dealt with inner-city politics and the environmental movement. “But NASCAR is said to be the second-biggest spectator sport in America, and it’s a part of our country’s culture worth exploring. The film is also a lot more universal than it might seem on the surface. It was very well-received at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, where I bet most members of the audience couldn’t name a single NASCAR driver. It’s really as much a story about adolescence and that amazing chapter of our lives as it is a story about going fast.”
DreamWorks Studios is currently developing the documentary into a dramatic feature film produced by the team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens, Transformers).
Racing Dreams is produced by Marshall Curry Productions, GOOD and White Buffalo Entertainment.
About the Filmmaker:
Marshall Curry (Director, Producer)
Marshall Curry’s Emmy- and Oscar®-nominated Street Fight, which he directed, produced, shot and edited, aired on POV in 2005. The film chronicles Cory Booker’s first run for mayor of Newark, N.J. against incumbent Sharpe James, and won numerous awards, including audience awards at the Tribeca Film Festival, AFI/Discovery Silverdocs and Hot Docs. It also received the Jury Prize for Best International Documentary at Hot Docs and was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award.
In 2005, Filmmaker Magazine selected Curry as one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” and he was awarded the IDA’s Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award. In 2007, he received an International Trailblazer Award at MIPDOC in Cannes. His recent film If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, winner of the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, aired on POV in 2011.
Curry has been a guest lecturer at Harvard, Duke, New York University and other colleges, and he has served on juries for the IDA, Tribeca Film Festival and Hot Docs. Prior to working as a filmmaker, he taught English in Guanajuato, Mexico, worked in public radio and taught government in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College and was a Jane Addams Fellow at The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, where he wrote about the history, philosophy and economics of nonprofits. Curry lives with his wife and children in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Director/Producer: Marshall Curry
Producer: Bristol Baughan
Executive Producers: Jack Turner, Ben Goldhirsh, Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia
Cinematographers: Marshall Curry, Peter Gordon, Wolfgang Held, Alan Jacobsen
Editors: Marshall Curry, Matthew Hamachek, Mary Manhardt
Original Music: Joel Goodman, The National
Running Time: 86:46
POV Series Credits:
Executive Producer: Simon Kilmurry
Co-Executive Producer: Cynthia López
VP, Production & Programming: Chris White
Series Producer: Yance Ford
Awards and Festivals:
- Winner, Best Documentary Feature, Tribeca Film Festival
- Winner, Best Documentary Feature, Nashville Film Festival
- Winner, Best Documentary Feature, Jacksonville Film Festival
- Winner, Silver Hugo Award, Chicago International Film Festival
- Winner, Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature, Florida Film Festival
- Winner, Audience Award, Best Feature, Indianapolis International Film Festival
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