The Austin Chronicle

SXSW 2011 Film Reviews

By Marjorie Baumgarten, March 18, 2011, Screens


Festival Favorites
D: Cindy Meehl

Buck Brannaman, the focus of this documentary, is the living prototype of the man Robert Redford first revealed to us as the Horse Whisperer. Although he is certainly a legend, this new film shows that Brannaman is a common-sense cowboy and certainly no sort of hypnotist, voodoo practitioner, or equine faith healer. As someone who knows him well states, “Most of us have a bag of tricks. Buck has an arsenal.” Empathy with horses is Brannaman’s greatest tool, but his understanding how creatures react to harsh commands and fears of the unknown is hard-won. The documentary reveals the childhood abuse inflicted on young Brannaman and his brother by their father, irrational beatings so severe that the boys were removed from the home and placed in foster care. In this way, Buck becomes much more than a crowd-pleasing horse opera, but grows into a redemptive tale about reversing the cycle of of violence.

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