Dream Racer – Dakar Movie Review

Bryan Harley | May 13, 2015
“What is it that have you done in your life that makes you say yes I’m happy of having had such a life.”This question is one of the motivating factors why Christophe Barriere-Varju tackles a 16-day, 10,000 km motorcycle race, the most challenging in the world. Dream Racer tells the story of why a 39-year-old business consultant shoves the mundanity of the nine-to-five aside to take on the most demanding race of them all, Dakar.

Born in France, Christophe moved to West Africa where he sampled the sweet taste of victory as a talented young motocross racer. He earned a reputation for his fluid riding style and was respected for his dedication to the sport. With adulthood though came the usual realities, pursuit of a career, bills to pay, business to conduct. But the heart of a racer still beat within him. It’s an intangible thing that burns within, boils the blood, a desire that plagues thoughts and won’t go away. Christophe needed a challenge. The Dakar Rally was it.

Dream Racer tells two concurrent stories, foremost Christophe and his journey to and at Dakar. But it also tells the story of the movie’s producer, Simon Lee, and what it’s like to cover the race. They share the common denominator of chasing a dream, for Christophe the dream of racing Dakar, for Lee, the opportunity to make the film he’s always wanted to. Struggle and sacrifice are also common bonds, because chasing dreams doesn’t come without a price. For Christophe, he struggles to make the money necessary to compete in the race with no big-name sponsors. He has no bike to race, no mechanic, no money, and everything comes down to the wire. Lee walks away from his job at an ad agency and the security of a steady check and gambles it all on a documentary. Like Christophe, he has no money, no camera crew, no chase car in Argentina confirmed. His wife just had a baby so he has to deal with the guilt of leaving his wife and newborn child as well.

“I just want to make a freakin’ movie,” says Lee.

Dream Racer is an underdog story. Will they come up with the money? Will Christophe have the stamina and endurance to complete the race because he’s so busy chasing money he has little time to train? Will Simon have the means to make the trip to Argentina? The odds seem stacked against them.

The movie starts with wonderful images from the race to help set the tone. It informs viewers of how many people have perished in the race, driving home how dangerous it is. Initially it’s paced a little slow, but serves its purpose to introduce the characters and give insight about their personalities and their plight. It also reveals the myriad of obstacles stacked against them and their determination to overcome those obstacles.

When the race starts, though, the movie will suck you in. You’ll begin cheering for Christophe as he faces nigh insurmountable odds – the dunes, the mountains, altitude sickness, rocks, the physical and mental tolls. He wrenches on his own bike every night after he rides, sleeps little, but still maintains his sense of humor throughout. His stubbornness is laudable and determination admirable. Amazingly, as the race goes on, Christophe gets stronger. Not even Fiambala, a stage he says is located “after Hell,” could break his will.

Lee, meanwhile, is learning what it takes to be part of the Dakar bivouac. He experiences a gamut of emotions, never knowing if Christophe is going to complete each stage, not knowing where his racer is on course because of a broken GPS, and the constant fear of not being able to complete his movie, the motivating reason for his being at the Dakar in the first place.

Dream Racer provides a font of information about Dakar. Viewers learn about liaisons and special stages, witness the way South American crowds embrace the race, and see first-hand the rigors of the race itself. The movie shows the monumental effort it takes crews to make stages themselves in order to set up the bivouac. It also shows the camaraderie that’s formed from racing for 16 days across deserts and mountains.

Dream Racer is inspirational, triggers introspection, and begs one to question complacency as it inspires viewers to take on that major challenge in life they’ve always dreamed of conquering. As the movie states, it is better to fail in the chase of dreams that not to chase at all, for “It’s at the edge of who we are that we learn who we could be.”

Dream Racer (Trailer – 7 Awards) from dream racer on Vimeo.

Bryan Harley

Cruiser Editor |Articles | Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it’s chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to ‘Merican, he rides ‘em all.