In rural Florida, blue-collar folks gather to witness a bi-annual wild event, Figure-8 School Bus Racing! Nineteen full-size school buses pack a puny 3/8-mile figure-8 track and race 20 harrowing laps to crown a victor.
I am not a huge fan of NASCAR, but I enjoy thrills and adrenaline rushes. I can understand why people paint up school buses and compete in cutthroat races. It’s a bit jarring at first, to see school buses in this type of setting if you’re used to school buses being to relegated to just the transportation of students. One of the first jobs I had was covering the demolition derby for the local fair so I get this atmosphere.
I approve of “Smash: Motorized Mayhem,” an unflinching documentary by Kevin J. Burroughs (in his first feature credit) that explores the world of bus racing. That said, it took me fifteen minutes into the film to determine if the picture was mockumentary or real depictions. There are some depictions in this film that if you heard them in a comedy, acted in a slightly funnier manner, they would make you laugh out loud. Consider the school bus driver’s story about the boy who threw up on the driver’s shoes after the driver confronted the boy for carving up bus seats with a pocketknife. That really happened. Or the guy who got married at a racing track. Or the guy who describes himself as “a sophisticated redneck” but not really sophisticated. There are some really memorable lines here. Burroughs found American with his camera and started shooting.
The movie introduces some of the men who compete in the bus driving game. We see them in their homes and follow them through one racing event. The director is smart enough to not give us a particular to choose from but merely just lets us be spectators to the event. Don’t ask me to recall any of the men in “Smash” because I can’t. I’m not sure I’m supposed to have done so, but I remember their life stories with uncanny recollection. While you might see this film because you like car racing, things smashing together, and the rush of racing, this film is a lot more than school buses. It’s hard to believe that Burroughs legitimately captured some of the footage he did. I’d love to see what he left on the editing room floor. So if you like documentaries as well, check out “Smash” because it’s a unique take on a weird topic with great footage. Personally, I know I’ll be re-watching this film again.
The movie ends with a race, but the race isn’t pivotal to the story. It’s just to give the viewer some structure and enjoyment. “Smash: Motorized Mayhem” tries to give the viewer a depiction of the world inside of bus racing. By not making the race pivotal to the story, the viewer also really gets the sense that the men of this film are in this life for permanent. While the film is playing at Slamdance, I’d be really interested to see who ends up enjoying this film. It’s not an easy to film to sell, but a film about school bus racing, this is one of the best efforts you could possibly make on the subject.
Available on Video On Demand and iTunes Tuesday, March 21st