Dirt

Off-track drama is as interesting as the high-speed racing in "Dirt," journalist Jeff Bowden's promising debut as a documentarian. Neither smugly condescending nor excessively celebratory, pic offers nonjudgmental look at blue-collar racing fanatics who spend thousands of dollars on souped-up cars to compete for hundreds of dollars in prizes at the Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas.

Off-track drama is as interesting as the high-speed racing in “Dirt,” journalist Jeff Bowden’s promising debut as a documentarian. Neither smugly condescending nor excessively celebratory, pic offers nonjudgmental look at blue-collar racing fanatics who spend thousands of dollars on souped-up cars to compete for hundreds of dollars in prizes at the Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas. After a few laps through the fest circuit and cable networks, doc should enjoy long shelf life as special-interest DVD.

Bowden follows several colorful competitors during 2002 season of World Class Street Stocks, a dirt-track competition level several rungs below NASCAR. The working-class racers must pinch pennies — and, if lucky, attract sponsors — to maintain their hobby. The intensity of their devotion is indicated by one supportive wife who describes her husband’s beloved car, only half-jokingly, as a romantic rival. A more conventional triangle gradually emerges after Andy Jones (vet driver who repeatedly views “Days of Thunder” for inspiration) allows his wife Gayla to race on her own in a car sponsored by a male “friend.” “Dirt” smoothly incorporates different film and vid formats to present a richly detailed picture.

Dirt

Production: A correction was made to these credits on Aug. 10, 2005. A Rabbit Man Films production. Produced, directed by Jeff Bowden. Co-director, Gregg Biggerstaff.

Crew: Camera (color), Biggerstaff, Arbor Watt; editors, Leah Marino, Karen Skloss; sound, Tom Hammond. Reviewed on DVD, Houston, June 7, 2005. (In WorldFest/Houston Film Festival.) Running time: 81 MIN.

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