In 1967, a pioneering African-American drag racer named Nira Johnson set a land-speed record on his Triumph Bonneville.
Without realizing it, Nira inspired a life-long love of American hot rod culture in two French guys: Denis Sire, an artist who used Nira as the basis for a comic book hero, and Laurent Romuald, the top motorcycle restorer in Paris, who built a replica of the comic book hero’s motorcycle.
Now, motorcycle journalist Mark Gardiner has teamed up with Airspeed Productions and director Kevin Ward to turn this heartwarming pro-American and pro-motorcycle story into a feature length documentary film, titled Monsters of the Salt.
Mark Gardiner says: “I’ve been writing about motorcycles for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve told a few stories that made people say, ‘That should be a movie’. This is the first time I’ve done anything about it.”
In the film, the American drag racer, Nira Johnson will meet his two biggest fans for the first time, as they bring their replica of his motorcycle to the Bonneville Salt Flat, to run alongside Nira’s original race bike.
Mark Gardiner says: “Any one side of this story—Nira’s real-life ‘American Dream’, or the French guys’ American hot rod fantasies—is worthy of a film. But the amazing way that the two stories are connected is like a shot of nitrous oxide to the ‘Monsters’ plot.
“In the one old magazine photo that the artist, Denis Sire, had to go on, you couldn’t see Nira’s face, so Denis assumed he was caucasian. You should have seen Nira’s face when I told him that he was a famous comic-book character in France, but as a white guy! This is why I don’t write fiction; you could never make this shit up!”
Gardiner is working with a veteran producer, Tom Guttry, and his company Airspeed Productions. They’ve also recruited renowned commercial director Kevin Ward (he was the director of photography on Dust to Glory.)
You can support their project by making a donation on the Indiegogo crowd-funding website here.
Mark Gardiner says: “This is a really inspiring story, and one reason that I want to bring it to the screen is that Americans are constantly exposed to news stories in which crowds of foreigners are shouting ‘Death to America!’ It may be true that the American government manages to make a lot of people (including a lot of Americans!) very angry, but around the world, the idea of America is still incredibly popular. That’s one of the major themes of ‘Monsters of the Salt’.”