A moving portrait of the man who was the inspiration for Nicolas Evans’ novel The Horse Whisperer, this film picked up the audience award for Best Documentary at last year’s Canberra International Film Festival and is a much loved film about a lot more than horses.
A rodeo star as a child, Buck Brannaman is now in huge demand as a man who knows a thing or two about horses. He spends much of the year on the road across the mid-west of America (he was even in Jindabyne a few weeks ago), giving his famous clinics where owners turn up with horses they believe have a problem. These people are often in for a surprise, because Brannaman maintains that what he really does is “help horses with people problems”, and some of the stories that unfold – including Brannaman’s own – are stranger than fiction and say more about life and how to overcome its challenges than you’d expect from a quietly spoken man from Wisconsin.
Filmmaker Cindy Meehl follows Brannaman as he tours the country with his clinic, slowly drawing out of him the touching story of his past and letting us witness some of the wisdom he passes on to people who think they have a problem with their animal. Brannaman comes from a tradition of natural horsemanship, encouraging owners to understand the real nature of the animal they want to ride, so that the horse and its human rider can work in perfect unison – and he demonstrates throughout the film the almost spiritual beauty that happens when this is achieved. Long time friend Robert Redford – who sought Brannaman’s help when he made a film version of The Horse Whisperer – adds some fond insights about the man, and Meehl’s gentle handling of her subject and her unobstrusive, observational camera work make this a delightful and touching experience.