Film review: Buck, a documentary about Buck Brannaman

  • Buck, a biographical film about American horse whisperer Buck Brannaman is out now at selected cinemas and will be available on DVD and as a download from 7 May.

    I was invited to a preview of the film and this is my view:

    The techniques of many self-declared “intelligent” and “natural” horsemen and women should be viewed with scepticism, I believe, so I went along to the press screening of Buck with mixed feelings.

    Having never heard of American horseman Buck Brannaman I did not know what to expect from this bio-pic that apparently wowed audiences at the US’s Sundance Festival.

    But I was pleasantly surprised and I don’t think I was the only one in a predominantly non-equestrian audience.

    First of all this is not a film about horses so much as a film about how people interact with horses.

    We all know riders who try to bully their horses into doing their bidding – whether it’s with gadgets and gizmos or a yard broom up the backside to get them into the box.

    Sometimes they get results but more often they get frustrated and the horse gets scared.

    Buck’s childhood at the hands of a violent father taught him he could go either way in his dealings with the world, carry on the cycle of abuse or try to understand how horses, and people, work.

    He is the “horse whisperer” of Nicolas Evans’ book and was the one to coach Robert Redford for the film of the same name.

    Buck follows him on a typical summer for him and his horses, on the road from town to town, holding clinics with local horse riders.

    Everywhere he goes he is treated with great fondness and reverence for his horsesense.

    But he does not always tell the owners what they want to hear.

    He asks one woman why she has allowed her out-of-control colt to become a frankly dangerous stallion.

    He asks her why she didn’t get him gelded and impose some ground rules early on.

    The woman, who clearly has emotional problems of her own, tearfully says she doesn’t know, then confides to the camera that she has a field of stallions at home despite not being able to ride through injury.

    She has failed her horse, Buck angrily tells the group, as the stallion is taken away, most probably to be put to sleep.

    This film will certainly make you review your relationship with your horse and probably with your fellow man.

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