In Cardboard Titanics, a small group of people gather in Birmingham, Alabama for a boat race. Only these people aren’t racing sailboats or canoes or the like; they’re racing cardboard and duct tape boats. The rules are simple. The boats can be of any design, as long as they’re made of cardboard, and the duct tape can be used only at the corners, seams and other areas of attachment (not, say, for waterproofing the inside and outside of the boat, a la a design used on Mythbusters). The first team to launch their boat, circle a buoy and come back to shore, wins; the last person to finish wins the coveted “dead f*****g last” award. As the teams prepare for the race, we’re greeted with humorous factoids and descriptions of the different boats and teams, in a Mission: Impossible-meets-MST3K style.
Cardboard Titanics is a hilarious short documentary snapshot of a unique event that most people don’t know exists, and as such it is perfectly timed, toned and delivered. Clocking in at under ten minutes, the short maximizes the story it’s telling and gets out before we even have a chance to get remotely disinterested. Not every documentary deserves the feature-length treatment, and filmmaker Sam Frazier, Jr. keyed in on all the right elements: folks want to see the boats, folks want to see if they float and folks want to have a good time.
I didn’t think any of the boats would survive the water, let alone make it around the race course intact. What I’ve learned is that cardboard and duct tape, coupled with the right design, can actually make a nautical vessel (as one team shows, you can even fit two people on the right build). Might not survive more than 5 minutes, but the fact that they can be used successfully in the interim was more than I gave them credit for. Except for one boat; if the filmmaker describes your vessel as the “unnamed piece of s**t,” chances are it’s not going to do very well.
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