WAYNE

Reviewed by GREG KING

Documentary

Director: Jeremy Sims.

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This well made, well-researched and entertaining documentary traces the life of Australia’s motor cycle racing world champion Wayne Gardner from his humble beginnings in the Sydney suburb of Woollongong through to his rise to the top of his sport. It is a tale of ambition, speed, dangerous risks, adversity, success and love.

Gardner was born in the working-class town of Woollongong, and, inspired by the classic movie On Any Sunday, from an early age he felt the need for speed. “I just wanted to go fast,” he says somewhat modestly. He bought his first dirt bike for $5 and as a kid hung out all day riding his bike and practicing some tricks. He felt no need for schooling, and he was always very ambitious and competitive. He began racing professionally at 18, and in 1981 he began racing for the Japanese Moriwaki team. Soon after that he began racing on the European circuit. In 1987 Gardner was named Australian sportsman of the year. In 1989 he brought the Motorcycle Grand Prix to Phillip Island in Victoria. And despite his successes, Gardner still remains pretty much a typical larrikin from down under. He comes across as laconic and honest and with a wry sense of humour.

Wayne is the first feature length documentary from actor turned filmmaker Jeremy Sims, a passionate and intelligent filmmaker who is better known for his compelling dramas like Beneath Hill 60 and Last Cab To Darwin. Working with writer Matthew Metcalfe and editor Tim Woodhouse – the team that was responsible for the documentary McLaren, tracing the life and achievements of legendary motor racing champion Bruce McLaren – Sims has assembled a wealth of archival footage and gives us plenty of exciting racing footage. The footage has been deftly edited together by Woodhouse and James Brown (who also worked on McLaren).

I liked the wonderful Manga-style animated sequences that are used to illustrate Gardner’s childhood exploits. There are also interviews with friends, family and even rivals like Eddie Lawson. And Gardner’s long-time girlfriend and ex-wife Donna-Lee Kahlbetzer also provides plenty of insights and anecdotes and she speaks fondly about her time spent in his company.  There is no voice over narration here; rather Sims lets the interviewees tell the story in their own way to provide context for the archival footage. The interviews do not probe too deeply beneath the surface though as this is not a warts-and-all type documentary.

Gardner’s path to success parallels Australia’s own growing maturity as a nation and its growth on the world stage, and Sims shapes the film to reflect this. Wayne is a documentary that will certainly hold plenty of appeal for revheads and fans of the sport of motorcycle racing, and the legendary sportsman.

★★★

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