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Dirt (2005)
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by Laura Kyle

"Who knew dirt track racing could be so entertaining? To a, er, girl?"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 AUSTIN FLIM FESTIVAL: I expected to be subjected to the most mundane testosterone driven documentary -- I mean, what's so intriguing about a bunch of men (and one woman) from Mesquite, TX, racing cars around a muddy track?

Well, to be honest, I still don't see much entertainment value in watching cars race around a muddy track -- or any track for that matter. But Dirt is a surprisingly relatable and funny doco about above all, competition and aside.

Dirt follows the lives of a group of dirt track racing competitors over a period of several weeks, as they gather up points each race to ultimately win the championship of what some might deem, a poor man's Daytona 500. The documentary hardly races through their stories though -- keeping careful tabs on each character...the losers, the cheaters, and yes, the winners.

Any Mesquite dirt track racer will tell you they don't do it for the money. If anything, building a good, winning motor will break their bank, not the other way around. But they still do it...every week, every year.

The wealthier drivers take more risks, knowing full well they can fix up any booboo's, while the poorer drivers take it easier, and often sacrifice some 'wins' as a result.

But all risk their lives -- it's a rough, dangerous sport...with a little bit of soap opera too.

Some drivers even risk their marriages. Not all the racers take much of a liking to competitor Gayla, on the account of her gender. She races for a male admirer of hers. And Gayla's husband doesn't take much of a liking to him...

Dirt is an interesting look at a special sect of middle-class self-proclaimed rednecks and their year-round obsession with the upkeep of their precious automobiles and inevitably their hopes for glory at every weekend race.

But what really holds the documentary together are the family bonds -- wives and children are so unconditionally supportive of their husbands and fathers scuttling around that track, almost as if on ice (as is Gayla's husband). One driver's wife jokingly explains how she's learned to accept that she can compete with other women, but never a car.

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originally posted: 10/28/05 16:30:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

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