The most effective documentaries often serve as windows to a new world. The world framed by Red, White & Wasted may be covered in Florida mud, but its view – in both foreground and background – is remarkably clear.
Up front, we’re immersed in the culture of “mudders,” who live for monster trucks and mud holes, beer and babes. The undercurrent, though, carries the type of bare bones political insight authors and filmmakers have been trying to articulate for years.
Directors Sam Jones and Andrei Bowden Schwartz introduce us to Matthew Burns, a mudding disciple who years back gained some local Orlando fame as “Video Pat,” ringleader of the “Swamp Ghost” mud hole. The monster truckers would come to barrel through the mud, and Pat would eventually fill “1,000 +” videotapes with all the filthy glory.
But Orlando, as you may have heard, is famous for some other attractions, and eventually the mudders’ favorite piece of land is sold, forcing them all to give up the Ghost.
The introduction of Video Pat’s family and friends expands the fascination the film finds in uncovering this backwoods life. While Jones and Schwartz – in their feature debut – never condescend to the mudders opening up to them, they’re also smart enough to follow where the simple country folks are only too happy too lead.
These proud “rednecks” are openly racist but don’t think it’s really a problem, keep tuned to conservative media, have “a lot of respect for Vladimir Putin” and protest that the Confederate flag really represents “home grown cookin’.”
And they are bigly fans of Donald Trump.
For anyone still wondering why so many of these rural Americans continue to vote against their own interests, this film and these people make it clear as mud. Their way of life is disappearing, and blaming the immigrants, city slickers, job-stealing foreign countries and libtards makes them feel better.
And whichever way you react to that, Pat’s reflections on his years of mudding, his failures as a father, and his status as a brand new grandfather arrive with a conflicted poignancy.
As he smiles and gently cradles his new grandson, Pat wonders about all the boy might soon be taught.
He’s not the only one wondering.