Road Race takes as its’ subject matter a hidden, illusive tradition of a largely invisible culture; illegal horse races organised by gypsies that take place on motorways in the UK. The races are run early on Sunday mornings throughout the winter. A group of spectators form a rolling road-block while two trotting horses, with sulkies and riders, run a very fast race on the ‘public highway’. These races are intensely competitive, bets are placed, large sums of money exchange hands, reputations are made and lost. Participants come from miles around while the police turn a blind eye.

As with previous works (Lambeth Marsh, Random Acts of Intimacy) Barnard examines the relationship between fiction and documentary, between the imagined and the real by constructing fictional images around verbatim audio and visa versa.


Road Race explores the transitory nature of an underground sport and our expectations, informed by myth, of traveller culture. The secretive and hidden nature of these races offers possibility of fabrication but documentary is expected to deal with fact.

In the work two forms of representation are viewed simultaneously, one document, one fiction. One is composed of raw, handheld DV footage shot at an actual race with synchronous sound and few edits much in the tradition of cinema verité or direct cinema. The other is a constructed sequence that was shot on film, on location in controlled conditions with entirely post-produced sound; a fictional construction based on fact, in the tradition of classical cinema.

Road Race questions the aspiration of documentary to collapse the distance between reality and representation.

Artist/Director: Clio Barnard

Producer: Charlotte Wontner

Production Co: Film London/Hopscotch Films
Format: Fuji 16mm SR3, Zeiss Spherical, 1.185:1



2004 UK