Mountain bikers will dig ‘Awesome Land: Women of Dirt’

  • Thu Feb 4th, 2010 4:03pm
  • Life

By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic

The movie world is full of all kinds of niche markets, none busier than the sports documentary. Back in the days before the landmark surf feature “The Endless Summer,” such things must have been laborious to shoot and risky to invest in.

That’s probably still true to some extent, but the relative ease of video cameras and the remunerative possibilities of the home-video market have made the field a packed one.

If you like skiing, surfing or skateboarding, you have no end of DVDs to choose from, all full of gnarly stunts and hang-loose lifestyles.

But don’t forget about mountain biking: people going downhill, over dirt bumps, or tearing down nature trails.

This is the focus of “Awesome Land: Women of Dirt,” a documentary that addresses an apparent need in biking videos: too many dudes, not enough women. Although in the film, the participants are invariably called “girls,” regardless of their ages.

“Women of Dirt” basically consists of a series of nicely shot biking runs, but it has a pleasantly unforced quality to it; some of the riders are definitely stoked, but it’s possible to zone out on the repetitive dirtpath runs.

The movie doesn’t build up any of its women into leading-lady status, but instead skips from one outdoorsy event to another.

We get brief glimpses of the lives of these committed cyclists, including one woman who has built a series of jumps in her back yard. She insists the neighbors like it; maybe they do.

The one constant is how beautiful the locations are, which conveys the fun of being out in the wild. Whether you think zipping down mountains is the ideal way to treat those natural wonders is, of course, entirely up to you. But the movie just goes with the flow.

It’s a film that will please people who are into this kind of thing and be of no interest to people who aren’t.

Which is all right: It was made for enthusiasts who really care about making corners and jumping mountain creeks.

After the periodic talk about sisters doin’ it for themselves in a world of mountain-biking men, it’s something of a letdown somehow to realize that “Women of Dirt” is produced by two guys, Mark Brent and Miles Sullivan. Well, give them credit for finding a niche within a niche.

“Awesome Land: Women of Dirt”

Documentary look at women committed to some gnarly dirt biking, whether in competition or in isolated runs in the forest. Made for enthusiasts, it basically consists of nicely shot cyclists hurtling down trails, which has a sort of hypnotic, repetitive effect.

Rated: Not rated, probably PG for language

Showing: Northwest Film Forum