“So hike up your pants and tighten your shoes. We’re going racing soon.”
The Toronto International Film festival programmers are selling Daniel Claridge and Pacho Velez‘s short documentary Dragstrip as an “exhilarating blast of raw Americana”, but I’m not sure if it isn’t actually evidence of our affinity with the mundane instead. Shot at the Lebanon Valley Dragway in Upstate New York, the film captures a slice of racing life in static shots aurally filled with the roar of engines and voice of a loudspeaker. We don’t actually see the cars in motion, but rather the drivers in anticipation and spectators following the track with heads moving left to right in tandem. It’s the glorification of the banal—a visual representation of America’s hobbies being less about the event than our reaction to it.
I feel the same sense of boredom I experienced the one time I went to a racetrack because the filmmakers portray it without filter. To me the most exciting aspect was watching how excited and involved those around me were—wondering if they would be as ambivalent to the main event of something I was passionate about as I was of this. The sense of awe in their voices and eyes following a bunch of cars in circles is a captivating sight. It makes you want to enter their minds to understand exactly what it is that so entrances them. Dragstrip therefore goes beyond Americana into mankind’s psyche on a grander, purer scale. A ritual so barebones and devoid of Nascar’s bells and whistles, the sport itself hits them in a way I’m envious to replicate.
Courtesy of TIFF