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Driven: A Real Life Documentary Examining the Life of a Pro Bodybuilder
Directed by Joel Barham
Released May 2006
Length: 1:58

The bodybuilding DVD market is saturated. Every month two or three new DVDs are released, each vying for our hard-earned dollars. Over the years, many athletes' videos have made their mark in the industry. Dorian Yates with Blood and Guts, Mitsuru Okabe with the Battle for the Olympia series, and others -- Markus Ruhl, Jay Cutler, Dennis James, and Ronnie Coleman among them -- have put out DVDs, each with a unique spin on pro bodybuilders' training and lifestyle.

A lot of these DVDs are good, provided you’re a fan of that specific athlete. Some entertain; others educate. Recent DVDs sometimes de-emphasize training in favor of lifestyle. So why should you buy Mark Dugdale’s new DVD? I’ll tell you.

It would be a crime to call this just a DVD. Why? Because it's more of a film. It’s done so well that it looks like a documentary you might see on cable TV -- even a feature documentary given theatrical release. If it were slightly re-edited to reduce some of the training routines, this film could easily be shown on TV or at film festivals. Viewers unfamiliar with the sport would better understand and appreciate what bodybuilders go through, gaining them much-needed respect from the general public.

The film is broken down into various segments: lifestyle, relationships, family, business, eating and nutrition, contest footage, and training. I'll cover each part individually. 

Training footage. Hardcore fans will love these scenes. Although I was initially disappointed that no quad routine was shown, my feeling quickly dissipated when I saw how heavily Mark trains in the other routines shown. He always uses good form and high intensity. While he's not as big as Dorian, his workouts are still Dorianesque. Highlights include heavy dumbbell presses, heavy incline presses, strict back workouts, and an awesome delt workout. In one scene, Mark is doing stiff-legged deadlifts for hamstrings. He uses four or five 35-lb. plates per side. I thought to myself, why use 35s? Why not 45s? Then I saw why. You can lower the bar further down and get a better stretch. The banter between Mark and his wife, and between him and his training partners, is funny and entertaining.

Contest footage. In this film, we see footage from the 2006 Ironman Pro show. The contest begins with  the weigh-in, tanning, Christina oiling Mark up, his mandatories as well as his posing routine.  During his routine, Mark hits some of the same poses Bob Paris made famous -- and he's the only current pro who can pull off the kneeling, twisting, one-arm-behind-the head shot. He looks like a statue Michelangelo himself sculpted. In the gym posing footage, you seehow big and ripped Mark has become.

Businessman. Mark has a full-time job as a fresh food supplier, specializing in vegetables. His two factories are huge. In this segment, which is somewhat short, the viewer comes to appreciate what it takes to be successful in business while juggling the discipline of a bodybuilding lifestyle.

Nutrition, shopping, and eating. There's some humor in a segment in which Mark gets all his supplements ready for the day. It looked like there had to be at least a 100 different pills (I’m exaggerating). On his trip to the store Mark buys chicken breasts, oatmeal, and orange roughy. During one dinner, we see Mark eat fish while his family eats spaghetti. It's refreshing to see a family having dinner together.

Lifestyle, religion, family, and love story. This is my favorite segment. Mark’s faith is important to him, yet he never once comes across as “holier than thou." His beliefs are ingrained in every aspect of life, from raising his three daughters to his relationship with his wife Christina. Both talk about how they met and fell in love. There's also footage of Mark helping out around the house, reading to his girls, and putting them to bed. We also see the family going out to eat and going to church.

This film is unique. I have never seen anything like it, and I love it. I could watch this over and over again. It's truly a love story: not just about Mark’s love of bodybuilding, but his love for his family and his faith. Mark represents everything good about our sport, and can remind us about what is important in life.  You don't get that in many other bodybuilding DVDs.

Thanks, Mark and Christina.

Steve Buccilli
May 2006

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