2005 Melbourne International Film Festival - Dirt: A Season Inside the Devil's Bowl (2005)

6th August 2005

Director: Jeff Bowden

Tagline: Jesus may have built my car, but Satan is the one who drives it

In this documentary we follow the lives of a participants in the Saturday night racing at the Devil’s Bowl for the Stock Car class over the course of one season. At the start of the year you don’t know them much so you laugh at them somewhat, but by the end of the film you learn how much of themselves they put into the sport and the camaraderie and enjoyment they get out of it, so it is hard not to feel for them.

This is the best documentary I have seen at this year’s festival as the combination of the racing action, the lives of the main participants and the excellent soundtrack all come together very well and make the whole thing work.

The documentary is shot in the usual ‘fly on the wall’ style for the trackside drama, mixed with one on one interviews, behind the wheel footage and highlights of that week’s races over the season. The quality is very good considering the conditions the track footage was shot under (the camera kept getting covered with mud).

I believe that the screening at the festival wasthe first it has screened outside North America, with a private screening being held for the participants in the movie a couple of weeks ago as the director pointed out.

In the Q&A after the session the director said that Melbourne reminded him a lot of Texas and answered the following questions from the audience.

Was there any trouble with the participants?
"Big Tim" threatened the director, but he was half joking. People liked having someone taking an interest in them. Also, with over 260 hours of footage, so the editor was very important

How was this subject chosen?
Director heard of "love triangle" at track and thought it would make a good story (actually a love rhombus.) They were very open about what was going on.

Did your vision for the movie match the outcome?
Did match what they were looking for. The director mentioned the following quote on the matter:
"I want to tell the truth, but I want to be invited back."

The movie was based on another documentary "Hands on a hard body" about a competition to win a car in Texas. You are meant laugh at people at the start, but not at the end. The people in the movie loved the way they were shown on screen and laughed along with it.

What inspired the choice of soundtrack?
Southern Culture on the Skids have a CD called "Dirt Track Date" The band quite liked the movie, so approved the use of their songs.

Was it hard to stay objective?
This was a tough question for the director to answer. He said he didn't pay people for filming, but at the same time he is only human. He only helped out one time, but the man wasn't going to win anyway. Doesn't believe in altering the outcome of events.

Did he get to race?
He was going to participate in the 'mechanics race' but the car broke down.
Drove a hot lap in Gayla's car, which people thought was funny as he had to wear her pink outfit.

Where there many injuries during the filming?
It is actually the safest class in racing as they only go 90mph. In the year afterwards, Gayla had to be cut out of her car. The higher classes more dangerous and it is scary even to sit in those cars.

Rating: 8/10