images courtesy of Austin Vince
available on DVD: www.dirtpunk.co.uk (£18.50)
First off – relax. There are 91 minutes to come and Austin (Vince) will take you through the story quite nicely if you just cut him some slack. Sure, you’re going to get cuffed around the ears straight away by the ever-so-slightly jarring transitions in the sound levels and there are of course the occasional clunky visual transitions too. And you’ll notice the intentional swaps from digital to celluloid and back again – maybe you’ll even tire of it – but this is small-budget film making, it’s not a mega-bucks professional drama-documentary, and so this kind of stuff comes with the territory. And let’s accord some respect here, whereas so many moto film makers (overgrown ‘You Tubers’ really) simply shoot a few minutes of (say) freestyle action and throw an end-to-end rock/rap soundtrack over the top, here Austin is valiantly putting together a feature-length film about seven guys riding thousands of miles into the middle of nowhere. He’s riding, shooting, narrating, pitching pieces-to-camera and using all manner of devices in the process of doing a proper job of story telling.
The back-stories, that of the first Mondo circumnavigation in the early 1990s and the chapters since, are relevant to this story now, but Austin covers such history nicely and succinctly in the opening sequences, so don’t worry if you haven’t seen his earlier films. But it’s worth mentioning again that the Mondo ‘franchise’ is some 20 years old now and we have to credit Austin for sticking with it for his entire adult life; defending the principles and ethics that his particular budget-style of moto-adventuring holds dear. And what dawns on you as you watch this film is that while at first you might not be a believer, and indeed be inclined to level that this kind of japery really has had its day, as the story rolls on you become more and more understanding and accepting.
The film’s highpoint comes about three-quarters the way through (actually just after a period of filmic ‘slack water’). It comes at a point – contrarily – where Austin finally stops talking (sorry, Austin!), gives in to modern technology (in what looks like Go Pro footage) and simultaneously suspends the almost non-stop loop of the Mondo Sahara score in favour of something softer and more reflective. It’s at this point we see in full – and there’s a bit of On Any Sunday in this – the seven guys simply enjoying riding through some perfect Saharan sands. The riding is choreographed but the smiles and the joy are real, and perhaps for the first time your heart aches to be with them. All through the film Austin re-iterates the film’s tag line ‘Dream it, do it’, but it’s in this almost quiet moment, these two or three minutes of simple pleasures – man, machine and the big outdoors – that you’ll find the inspiration.
Mondo Sahara is deserving of a place in your video library and with any luck it’ll connect with your inner-adventurer and inspire you to go forth in whatever way you can (Austin is very inclusive on this – we can all do it). Yes, there is a sense Austin has tried doubly hard on this project – in some instances too hard, he could afford to back off occasionally and just let the story tell itself – but we love his passion and his message is both worthy and very much in need of the telling.
So, let us bring Santa into the picture to finish the job: if you only watch one film this Christmas then let it be this (there’s a big-bold hint there for your wife/husband – Austin-style!).