×

Buck

Warmly engaging "Buck" is a portrait of the trainer whose remarkable way with equines provided a model for "The Horse Whisperer."

With:
With: Buck Brannaman, Bibb Frazier, Betty Staley, Shayne Jackson, Robert Redford, Gwynn Turnbull Weaver, Nevada Witt, Reata Brannaman, Mary Brannaman, Gary Myers, Betsy Shirley, Johnny France, Tina Cornish, Dan Gunter.

Warmly engaging “Buck” is a portrait of Buck Brannaman, a trainer whose remarkable way with equines provided a model for “The Horse Whisperer” in both novel and movie forms. Subject is a very likable character whose teaching wisdoms are rooted in the Golden Rule: Having suffered a nightmarish childhood, he sees no reason why man or beast should be schooled in an abusive fashion. Sundance Selects pickup won the U.S. documentary audience award at the fest, and should do particularly well as a broadcast item after further fest play and limited theatrical exposure.

As children, Brannaman and his elder brother (about whom nothing is seen or heard beyond archival clips, oddly) were rope-trick performers skilled enough to land national TV appearances. But after their mother died, an already fearsome father’s violence spun out of control, until the boys were removed to a much healthier foster-care home.

As a young man, Brannaman became a protege of famed natural-horsemanship proponent Ray Hunt, forcing himself to overcome a painful shyness in order to teach the four-day training clinics that now occupy three-quarters of his year. Seeing Brannaman at work around the country is a real pleasure, not just for his animal rapport but for his beautifully cogent, folksy explanations of horse (and human) psychology.

At the one-hour mark, just as the docu seems to be running out of steam, it introduces a present-tense drama in the form of a Chico, Calif., clinic involving a birth-defected 3-year-old colt so dangerously aggressive, Brannaman says it’s become “as close to a predator” as the species can get. His emphasis on cooperation and encouragement in training, rather than fear and punishment, aims to make horse and rider one contentedly functioning body and mind. When the animal is disturbed, he blames the human, telling her she needs to work on her own mental health because “Your horses are a mirror to your soul.”

First feature for Cindy Meehl is confidently assembled, with attractive contributions from the two cinematographers and composer David Robbins. Sundance founder Robert Redford turns up to discuss Brannaman’s role as a key advisor on the briefly excerpted “Whisperer” film. It’s to Brannaman and the docu’s credit that this colorful Hollywood behind-the-scenes glimpse isn’t quite as fascinating as the subject simply doing his everyday job.

Buck

Docu

Production: A Sundance Selects/IFC Films release of a Cedar Creek Prods. presentation in association with Motto Pictures and Back Allie Prods. Produced by Julie Goldman. Executive producer, Cindy Meehl. Directed by Cindy Meehl.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Guy Mossman, Luke Geissbuhler; editor, Toby Shimin; music, David Robbins; music supervisor, Liz Gallacher; sound, Ben Lowry; supervising sound editor, Jacob Ribicoff; re-recording mixer, Lee Dichter. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 29, 2011. Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Buck Brannaman, Bibb Frazier, Betty Staley, Shayne Jackson, Robert Redford, Gwynn Turnbull Weaver, Nevada Witt, Reata Brannaman, Mary Brannaman, Gary Myers, Betsy Shirley, Johnny France, Tina Cornish, Dan Gunter.

More Film

  • Woody Allen Developing Next Film With

    Woody Allen Teams with Spain’s Mediapro for Next Film

    MADRID — Woody Allen is re-teaming with Spain’s Mediapro, one of Europe’s biggest independent film-TV companies, to develop his next film with an eye it seems to shooting in Spain. Mediapro co-financed and co-produced two of Allen’s highest-grossing movies, 2008’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which grossed $96.4 million worldwide, and 2011’s “Midnight in Paris” which earned [...]

  • 'Stitches' Review: Berlin Film Festival

    Berlin Film Review: 'Stitches'

    An elegant hybrid of true-story exposé and slow-moving arthouse thriller, Serbian director Miroslav Terzić’s sober sophomore feature “Stitches” takes a familiar idea — a lone crusader taking on a corrupt system in pursuit of the truth — but delivers an unusually thoughtful, psychologically compelling character study. Taking its cue from Snežana Bogdanović’s eerily composed but fathomless [...]

  • Aruna and Her Palate review

    Berlin Film Review: ‘Aruna & Her Palate’

    When mouthwatering Indonesian cuisine and romance are on the table, “Aruna & Her Palate” is a bouncy crowd-pleaser. Less tasty is the backdrop of a suspected bird flu outbreak that brings a food-loving epidemiologist into contact with her secret crush. Adapted from Laksmi Pamuntjak’s 2014 novel “The Bird Woman’s Palate,” “Aruna” manages to overcome its [...]

  • 'Duke' Review: Two Fake Cops Patrol

    Film Review: 'Duke'

    If you can envision “Let’s Be Cops” reconstituted as a noirish psychodrama, you may be adequately prepared for “Duke,” an uneven but arresting indie thriller about two siblings who are driven to heroic extremes by childhood traumas. Co-directed by twin brothers James and Anthony Gaudioso, who also appear in strikingly different supporting roles, the film [...]

  • Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in

    Greek Director Probes Deeper Issues in Berlin Festival Film 'Sargasso Sea'

    After a sudden suicide turns a small eel-farming town upside down, an investigation unearths troubling secrets about the town’s past. Those discoveries will bring together two women trapped in solitary lives, offering each a chance to find salvation. “The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea” is the third feature by Greek director Syllas Tzoumerkas. Starring frequent [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    France's Cesar Awards Leads the Way for the Oscars

    Since 2011, France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma has steadfastly held its annual awards ceremony the Friday before the Academy Awards. And if launching the Césars two days before the Oscars holds a real, practical benefit — allowing those walking both red carpets time to linger over their last flutes of Champagne before [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content