Monday, October 16, 2006

Kaikohe Demolition

My family spent a few years in Kaikohe; although I never lived there properly, I did have two summers there working during the University holidays at the Pioneer Village and then at the Department of Social Welfare. Of course, since we lived in Okaihau in the 8 years before I went to University, Kaikohe was our big smoke: I had many an hour poking around in the second hand shops or wandering the main street. Every so often, we'd all go off to the local hot springs at Ngawha - pretty grungy, mud floors, all corrugated iron and timber, not at all flash.

I don't recall any of us being involved in the car club so it isn't really a surprise to me that when Florian Habicht decided to make a documentary about their demolition derbies, I wouldn't recognise any of the people involved. Two of the central characters, John and Uncle Bimm, are pictured above enjoying the water. The rules of the demolition are very simple: everyone has a gallon of petrol, no ramming of the driver's door and last car still moving wins.

I don't think this car made it, somehow! About half of the hour long movie was footage of racing, if you can call it that - it was never quite clear which direction cars were supposed to be going on or indeed if there was a required direction. Instead, cars would be busily ramming each other, shooting around the track in reverse and generally going all over the place. That's when they were moving at all: apart from the contestants to contend with, the track was very muddy for several of the races. For the one summer race I saw, they got the old water tanker out to give it a good sprinkling. Just to show how democratic the sport of demolition derby racing is, a 15 year old girl won one competion. Behind the scenes footage revealed, however, that she might have had some assistance at one stage, and a little extra tender treatment. Still, cool that she won.
I even think it might be her car in the lead in this photo.

The rest of the movie was taken up with getting to know the guys - about how they got involved in the sport, their philosophies, about life in Kaikohe. Nothing too serious, just gently good humoured. Unusually, the special features of the DVD were as long as the main, if not longer - there were two full races, with "commentary" from John and Uncle Bimm largely consisting of jokes about making tea on all the busted radiators and advertising the various cars for sale, as they became immobilised. Good plain fun. Another special feature was the footage of the world premier in Auckland - most of the crew went down and made speeches:Uncle Bimm was threatening a sequel "Once Were Demolition Car Drivers". Half the audience (as well as the Ratana Brass Band), apparently, had made the trip down from Kaikohe - which must have made seeing it very special, as they recognised their town, friends or even themselves on screen. The bit that really touched me, however, had nothing to do with the racing. Florian was being interviewed on Bfm: instead of showing that, we saw a bunch of young kids, just skylarking, playing it up for the camera.



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