Documentaries can be dry, or hokey, or too agenda driven. It’s clear after you’ve watched a number of them that some filmmakers undertake a documentary planning to lash together a few raw facts, some old aboriginal wisdom, get their friend with Pro Tools to hammer out some traveling music, and that’s a doc. It certainly can be. You can walk away from it knowing something you didn’t know before.
Director Chad DeRosa understands that a documentary is a movie first and foremost. It should make viewers feel before it makes them think. DeRosa delivers a sucker punch in his motorcycle speed doc Out of Nothing.
The raw facts are that the Super Rat motorcycle racing team out of Bellingham, Washington wants to set motorcycle land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Mark Bjorklund, Carl Bjorklund, Jason Omer, and Bill Woods build custom bikes designed to break those records.
“DeRosa delivers a sucker punch in his motorcycle speed doc Out of Nothing.”
DeRosas’s cinematography captures gorgeous landscapes and light, particularly the drone work out in Bonneville. The soundtrack is also excellent, building excitement as the sweeping horizon frames the racing bikes in the foreground, the distances and scale of the image informing us what a challenge it is to pit yourself against nature to ride faster than anyone ever has. DeRosa has spent most of his time as a cinematographer: his experience and artistry are well on display in this film.
For the mechanically inclined the bike design and build process is engrossing. The team all have day jobs, working at the Super Rat shop at night and trying to balance home and work life against their obsession with speed.
Each member of the team brings a crucial set of skills and energy that makes the whole greater as they come together to orchestrate successful projects.
“…the film sparks and thrills as Super Rat does break records…”
The only slightly irritating element of the film is that some of the team grab-ass and trash talk gives parts of it the vibe of an episode of bad reality TV (redundant, it’s all bad), especially where Bill Woods is concerned. What you see of him in the doc shows more of a relentless bike racing fanatic and less of a fun guy to be around. This change of tone is jarring and takes you out of the bike/speed groove. His obnoxious swagger could have been left out and the film would be better.
When the focus returns to the salt flats with the weather and the bikes and the vicissitudes of men and machines under pressure, the film sparks and thrills as Super Rat does break records, then returns home to start designing for the next year.
Out of Nothing (2017 streaming VOD). Directed By Chad DeRosa. Written by Colin Dalvit. Starring Mark Bjorklund, Carl Bjorklund, Jason Omer, Bill Woods.
7 out of 10