By Don Simpson | April 30, 2012
Director: Jonny Mars
A long-time Dallas Cowboys fan, director Jonny Mars surprisingly did not make his first trip to a game at Texas Stadium until 2006. That is when he met Cy Ditmore, Stan “Tiger” Shults and the rest of the Gate 6 tailgaters. Mesmerized by Cy’s culinary skills and Tiger’s motivational pep rallies, Mars got the sudden urge to commence work on his first documentary film. But rather than just interview and document the Gate 6 tailgaters, Mars immediately understood that a much bigger story was about to unfold before his camera’s lens. Before he even started rolling tape, Mars knew that Texas Stadium was going to be imploded and the Cowboys would be moving 20 miles west to a brand spanking new stadium. Mars did not know, however, that he would be heading headfirst into the modern economic black hole of major league sports.
America’s Parking Lot (yes, the title is a wink and a nod to Heavy Metal Parking Lot) is about the loyalty of sports fans and the major league franchises who bend them over and fuck them up their collective ass. First and foremost, Mars cares about the fans; Cy and Tiger being two of the most rabidly dedicated fans in the history of football, it only makes sense that Mars’ directorial debut focuses on them. That leaves Jerry Jones and the Cowboys franchise to play the role of the greedy monster that we know is always lurking somewhere off screen but only rears its ugly head every so often.
Admittedly, I am not a football fan; even if I was, the Cowboys would be the very last team in the world I would root for (originally hailing from Philadelphia, I was born and raised to hate the Cowboys). As a non-fan, I truly cannot comprehend Cy and Tiger’s unwavering support of a football franchise that cares about only one thing — taking their money. Cy and Tiger’s tendency to place a professional football team on a pedestal above everything else in their life is totally mind-boggling to me. It is a mindset that is impossible for me to fathom; in fact, it is a lifestyle that I adamantly oppose.
Approaching America’s Parking Lot from my perspective, it is undeniably frustrating to watch the events unfold. As a non-fan, I am also more interested in the economic aspects of the documentary than the development of Cy and Tiger’s characters (though it is utterly impossible to resist their quirky personalities and not be completely enthralled by their lives). Mars reveals the inherent class warfare of modern professional sports, but he also shows us why the working class fans are losing battle after battle. The fans continue to feed plutocratic pigs such as Jerry Jones with money — money that the fans do not actually have, thus sending them deeper and deeper into debt. The franchise owners grow wealthier and powerful as their team’s fan base becomes more and more economically disenfranchised. The owners have their team’s fans by the balls, knowing that they can screw their team’s fans every which way to Sunday and the fans will still continue to support their team. It is a ridiculous situation and something needs to be done about it. Of course the most logical solution — at least from an outsider’s perspective — is for the fans to stop encouraging the beast, to say no to PSL’s, and to demand financial transparency (especially when it comes to public funding); unfortunately, I do not think that will happen any time soon, but maybe Mars’ film will help educate more people about the situation.
As far as documentaries are concerned, America’s Parking Lot is damn near perfect. Mars’ astute understanding of narrative arc and development of conflict astounds me. His confidence in being able to convey such a strong and entertaining story in a purely observational format without directorial manipulation is quite commendable. Most directors would have tried to insert their own persona or voice into the narrative, to steer it or enhance the humor; but Mars opts for a vérité approach, keeping the camera far away from his subjects as to not disturb or intimidate them, capturing something very close to the truth of Cy and Tiger’s natural behaviors. If I didn’t know any better, I would have assumed America’s Parking Lot was directed by a seasoned veteran, not a first-time director.
Also check out Linc Leifeste’s 8 out of 10 review of America’s Parking Lot as well as my interview with Jonny Mars from DIFF 2012.