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Award-winning filmmaker Marshall Curry, whose first two documentaries for POV (Point of View) have been nominated for Oscars ( Street Fight in 2006; If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front , in 2012), returns to POV for a third time 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 Awards at the Tribeca, Nashville and Jacksonville Film Festivals and executive-produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, has its national broadcast premiere on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 , at 9 p.m. on PBS’s POV series (check local listings) and will 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 is the winner of a Special Emmy for Excellence in Television Documentary Filmmaking, two IDA Awards for Best Continuing Series and NALIP’s Corporate Commitment to Diversity Award. DreamWorks Studios is currently developing Racing Dreams into a dramatic feature film produced by the team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Star Trek, Cowboys & Aliens, Transformers).
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, Josh Hobson and Brandon Warren as they compete in the Pavement Series, a yearlong national championship of five races around the country organized by the World Karting Association (WKA).
The WKA’s races have been a breeding ground for NASCAR racers—Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and others started out racing competitive go-karts—and Annabeth, Josh and Brandon dream of stepping up to the “big leagues,” too. In the film, Annabeth and Josh compete at the junior level, while Brandon is in his last season in the senior division.
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.
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 sport has a particular significance for her: “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. He lives with his 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 may threaten their ability to achieve their dreams.
“I think that pre-adolescence is probably the most important, poignant and under-explored stage in our lives,” says director-producer Curry. “It’s really when we are beginning to figure out who we are, how we relate to our parents, what romance feels like, and what we want to do.
“I hope that this movie will take people back to that age, and remind us of the dreams we had—to be President, or a baseball player, or wherever our imagination took us. Back before we knew about the importance of money or connections or how hard things were going to be, and we just dreamed.”
Racing Dreams is produced by Marshall Curry Productions, GOOD and White Buffalo Entertainment.
Photo Credit: Trujillo Paumier