July 7, 2011
A documentary about the remarkable life and philosophy of Buck Brannaman.
By Holly Clanahan
“A lot of times, rather than helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.”
And so Buck Brannaman sums up his nearly three decades of giving horsemanship clinics. His empathy toward horses is legendary, but so is his compassion toward humans. It’s what makes his sage advice relevant even to non-horse people. And the unique combination has garnered standing ovations at screenings of the new documentary “Buck.”
The film earned the prestigious audience award for documentaries at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, among other honors, and it’s opening on the East and West coasts in June.
“It seems like it’s going to be quite a big deal,” Buck says, humbly. But he’s happy to see the broad appeal and the reach.
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“That’s the thing, this documentary is going to reach a lot broader demographic of people than what my clinics do. There are plenty of horse people who have been through my clinics over the years, but this seems to have an appeal to people who don’t have horses necessarily, but they still seem to get the point. That’s cool.”
The film tells the tale of Buck’s abusive childhood and how that shaped him into the kind of person who understands and empathizes with both horses and people when they’re afraid. Under his tutelage, even problem horses recognize that he’s speaking their language and respond accordingly.
When Cindy Meehl was first exposed to those philosophies, it was a life-changing experience for her. So much, in fact, that she decided to step out of her normal fields of fashion and art to become a first-time film-maker.
The reception the film has received tells her the leap of faith was a wise one.
“Clearly, people are getting that inspiration and hopeful message that he brings, in areas that go way beyond the horse,” Cindy says. “He realizes this is going to reach a much wider audience and that maybe people will stop and think about how they react to their horse, and their animals and their families.”
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Indeed, Buck does realize that and is willing to show up in places like the Sundance Film Festival, where horsemanship clinicians don’t normally tread. As the larger release dates near, he’ll help publicize the show even more – possibly with appearances on “Oprah” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” – “all kinds of unlikely places for Buck Brannaman to show up,” he says with a laugh.
For Cindy, it reinforces her initial belief that “this is such a powerful message; if I can do it right and make a beautiful film and engage people, it would open up a world that people didn’t know existed. I’m excited about the reception, but I’m not surprised.”
To learn more about “Buck,” visit www.buckthefilm.com.
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