DVD Review - One Man's Island


One Mans Island DVD Racing on the Isle of Man TT course is recognised around the world as a unique event in motorsport, often being described as "the Everest of motorcycle racing".

The 37 mile circuit, which varies between country roads through farmland and villages to the windswept beauty of the slopes of Snaefell, provides a challenge to riders unmatched elsewhere.

In January 2002 Canadian Mark Gardiner, a keen racer, left his job and his home and sunk his savings into what many might consider a reckless adventure. He fullfilled a lifelong dream - to visit the Island and race in the TT.

The film tells the story of how he achieved his dream, following Mark's long, methodical preparation in the months up to TT fortnight - from cycling around the course, through acquiring a Honda CBR600 to race to qualifying and racing in the 600cc Junior and Production races in June. It allows the viewer to see what ordinary riders have to go through to race on the famous Mountain circuit.

Mark provides plenty of insight into both the process and his own thoughts on this endeavour. There is extensive commentary and analysis which, despite being provided almost entirely by Mark himself, is thankfully not at all tiresome. In fact, I'd suggest that it allows us to follow Mark's progress and see what he had to do to learn the racing lines and the arcane rules of this historic event.

However, there are one or two areas where I feel the film could be better. Having visited the TT a couple of times, I felt that there were aspects of the event that were bypassed. While I don't expect him to be supping beer outside Bushy's pub every night and watching the impromptu stunts by some of the estimated 40,000 annual visitors, we don't see much beyond the tarmac and the garage.

Some of the most charming moments are Mark's conversations with Islanders, and the film would have had a more varied rhythm if more of these were included. Also, very little time is devoted to his interaction with other competitors, so we were not shown the camaraderie that usually exists between competitors. These two elements would have provided a counterpoint to the monologues that make up a large proportion of the film.

Another disappointment was the picture quality. The film was shot on digital video, and unfortunately the quality is not as good as it could be. Often scenes were too contrasty for the camera, and all we could see was white sky and dark earth. Similarly, when people spoke on camera they were often in shadow and poorly lit. Some thought could have been put into avoiding these pitfalls when filming.

Despite these reservations, I found One Man's Island to provide an insight into competing at the Isle of Man that cannot be found anywhere else. It is an honest guide to what it takes to enter these most famous of races, and gets under the skin of racing there in a way that no other type of programme could.

It has been described as "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for motorcyle racers", and I don't think that is a huge exaggeration. If you are a video photography buff you might cringe at the picture quality at times, but the story more than makes up for it. If you've ever wondered what it's like to take part in the TT this is as good as it gets.

© Simon J Evans 2004

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Another review of One Man's Island.

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