You may not believe that someone with a background in fashion and art and no prior movie making experience is capable of directing and producing an award winning film on their first try. You may also find it hard to believe that watching a movie about horses can be so thought provoking that it leads you to question your actions and how they impact the world.
In the award winning movie, “Buck”, Redding resident, Cindy Meehl has combined her passion for horses with her admiration and respect for one charismatic horseman, Buck Brannaman, to create an unforgettable documentary that looks like a feature film. Yet, the film does not star any high-priced actors, and the horses do not allow for a “take 2”. None of the scenes are scripted.
Meehl follows Brannaman to beautiful ranches throughout country where he holds clinics helping what he calls “horses with people problems”. She adeptly captures horses and their owners hungry for Brannaman’s tutelage. “How am I going to bring people to this idea if they are bored? They have to fall in love to get what he [Buck] is doing,” says Meehl.
Many of those who have seen “Buck” have fallen hard. An abundance of viewers have written to Meehl praising the film. School teachers recount stories where “Buck” helps them teach their students. Inmates in prisons write about how the movie relates to their lives. “It reached people in such a broad way. I was told that a lawyer shut down his office and took sixteen people to see the movie. Afterward, he discussed how they could improve inter-office relationships,” explains Meehl.
“Buck” premiered onscreen this past summer just a few miles from Meehl’s home at one of her old stomping grounds- Bethel Cinema. “It was surreal to be in Bethel. There were people I knew – it was overwhelming. The people who supported me and championed me along the way showed up. It was really nice,” explains Meehl. And she’s won broader acclaim; taking home The Sundance Audience Award, the Audience Award at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival as well as the 2011 Best Documentary at The Crossroads Film Festival.
“Buck” demonstrates how Brannanman’s love and passion for horses helps him accomplish the impossible- taming the most unruly of beasts. And in doing so, the master horseman tames the human spirit. Brannaman uses a gentle touch rather than force to train horses. “Wouldn’t anyone want to be in harmony with an animal?” questions Meehl. We learn from Brannaman that being in harmony with an animal, means being in harmony with yourself. “A horse is a mirror to the soul and sometimes, you might not like what you see in the mirror,” states Brannaman.
Brannaman has truly discovered and implemented, what Meehl calls, “the better way” of interacting with horses which transcends into healthier relationships on a human level. “Everyone should know this, when you get it, you can take your horse to places you never thought and it reaches you so far beyond the horses,” explains Meehl.
Meehl brilliantly weaves the fabric of Brannaman’s abusive childhood into the film. His gentle method of horse training is built on mutual respect and compassion which is a direct contradiction to his violent past. “When something is scared for its life, I get that,” Brannaman says in the film.
Brannaman is a real life horse whisper, and the inspiration for Robert Redford’s film The Horse Whisperer. In fact, Meehl interviews Redford in her film. “Little miracles happened…like getting Robert Redford to do an interview when you are a no body director,” chuckles Meehl. Redford talks about Brannaman’s humanity and gentle spirit as a horseman.
“Buck gives you pearls of wisdom,” says Meehl. And, these “Buckisms”, as Meehl calls them, will resonate with you long after you leave the theater. “I think we needed this movie,” adds Meehl. I think she’s right.
If you weren’t able to see “Buck” on the big screen you can now pick it up on DVD. “We put in a lot of extras in the DVD,” says Meehl. What’s more, Meehl and Brannaman provide the commentary for the DVD version. It is available at all major retail stores.
*This story appeared in Bethel Magazine.
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*Photo courtesy: Kristen Jensen