Road Riders is a three part documentary series about Irish National Road Racing - the only racing of its kind anywhere in the world - and gives voice to the riders, their families and the people working behind the scenes.
We don't cover a lot of documentaries here at Flash-Bang, but I saw a preview of sorts of this a while ago, which focussed on the women involved in the sport, and have to say I was fascinated and am glad of the opportunity to learn more.
As the documentary tells us, each year approximately 300 riders take part in Ireland's road raced - most of whom are amateur riders. It is a very dangerous sport, with many people being seriously injured or even killed. In fact, a couple of nasty accidents occurred during the filming of the documentary itself, one of them even being caught on camera.
The film focusses on a handful of racers and their families. We start off with Melissa, a twenty five year old girl who can't think of anything else she should be doing other than racing. Then there is the guy who lost part of his leg in an accident and now has a special augmented leg he wears for racing. Then there's Indi and Veronika who travel from the Czech Republic to race at the weekends. Of all the characters though, the one that stands out the most is Yvonne, a 59 year old woman who kind of fell into the sport at a late age and hasn't looked back since.
The documentary needs these characters to convey the appeal of the sport because it isn't particularly glamorous! As one of the racer's wives puts it, "I was expecting Formula One, high heels and makeup - instead its all mud and wellies!". There are no exotic locations to be had here.
Interspersing the various vignettes are some lovely black and white photography sessions with the riders and some of their families. The high definition of the pictures details the ruggedness and deep set lines of their features. These moments help to develop a sense that this is less a sport, more a way of life. The score, also, lends to this, which its almost melancholic acoustic guitars accompanying the various people preparing to race.
While the racers themselves have a similar outlook on their obsession/vocation, the more humanistic aspect comes from the families who support them. For example, Melissa's mother, who always comes to the race but can't bear to watch, but feels not being there would be a lot worse. Much more pragmatic is the wife of Warren, who gives a good account of what its like to be married to a road racer and the fears she has to deal with.
One of the most significant parts of the documentary, for me personally, comes at the end, when we see all of these characters we've been following around and listening to, actually there in their element, mingling with each other as they prepare for a race. Finally all of these pieces slot together to show the bigger picture, and it stirs something inside you.
Road Racers opens the door on a sport for which many can't comprehend the appeal and some are calling to be banned outright. It's a dangerous sport, indeed but no one taking part is naive about the risks involved.
Other's describe it as an addiction, like a drug, and you get a sense of the exhilaration and danger in the p.o.v. Racing footage through the winding b-roads of Ireland's countryside. Veronika, at one point, says that she feels more alive during five minutes of racing than most people will feel in a lifetime, which has brings to mind Vin Diesel's "living life one quarter of a mile at a time". Fast, not furious, indeed.
Even if you're not a petrol-head, this is recommended.
8 out of 10 (MIkeOutWest)