Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A menace on the road, gripping on the screen

:00AM Monday September 03, 2007By Lincoln Tan
I normally try to have little to do with boy racers. Perhaps it was because the first time I experienced the death of a friend, it was due to street racing.
A mate took up a challenge to race from another group while we were having supper at the esplanade in Malacca, and that was the last time I saw him alive. It happened almost 25 years ago, but I still find it hard to erase the image of my friend's lifeless, bloodied body lying on the side of the road after the crash.
Since then, my job as a journalist notwithstanding, I would try to avoid anything to do with street racing.
My experience with boy racers in New Zealand hasn't been very pleasant either. In 2003, following a crash in Christchurch involving boy racers which seriously injured four Thai boys, my role at the Asian Youth Trust there took me to the streets to talk to some of the other Asian kids in the street racing circle who were supposed to be friends of these boys.
But instead of showing concern for the crash victims, all they cared about was how to get around the law if the same thing happened to them. And they were boasting about how much more "invincible" their own Subaru WRXs and souped-up Toyota Starlets were compared with the cars the Thai boys were driving.

Probably the combination of youth and sniffing too much petrol fumes have contributed to giving this lot of petrolheads a false sense of immortality. Any mention I made to them to consider the possibility of giving up racing on the streets was greeted with the finger salute and the request to f-off. "We have the car, we have the power," one of them said.
When Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove started a campaign to call for tougher laws against boy racers, I was therefore not at all surprised that the reaction from these hoons was a death threat.
"If you see him on the road, he should be killed," a posting on a website started by a group of boy racers said. For the really hard core racers, no law can ever be tough enough to keep them off the streets.
Some of the recalcitrant ones I spoke to saw their brushes with the law and police as badges of courage collected en route to becoming king of the road.
The only way to stop them is to take away their toys when they break the law, which is why I would support Cosgrove's move to give police and judges more power to impound vehicles.
Maybe he should even take it a step further, and do it LA-style, where the cars of young hoons who break road laws are not only confiscated, but crushed.
So I wasn't exactly thrilled when an email from the publicist of a new local drama about a young Asian student and Auckland's street racing culture landed in my inbox last week. Neither was I jumping with excitement when he dropped off the DVDs of the series.

But, I had been engaged as the cultural adviser for the series and was involved during the scripting stages of Ride with the Devil, so I thought it was just right for me to watch the end product.
I wanted to just put it on, watch a little, fast-forward the rest and then email the publicist and producer that I had seen the series. But 10 minutes into episode one and it gripped me, so much I couldn't stop watching till I had finished all six discs.
To be honest, when I had been told by the series producer Rachel Jean at the start that local Asian actors were to form the core cast, I didn't think she'd be able to pull it off.
But I thought all three, Andy Wong, who plays Lin Jin, an international student and boy racer from Beijing, Lynette Forday who plays his aunt and Caleigh Cheung as her daughter Amy put up sterling performances in the series.
The drama's totally politically incorrect portrayal of the world of international students and street racers made the series seem real, almost. Heck, they didn't even get the spelling of my name right in the credits.

Ride with the Devil is controversial, but in a good way. I think Rachel is right to say that Ride with the Devil will help provoke the kind of dialogue we need to understand the changing face of our nation.
The series starts tomorrow on TV2 - pity about the 11pm time slot though. lincoln@iballmedia.co.nz

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