A documentary by Cindy Meehl. Rated G. Opens Friday, November 18, at the Vancity Theatre
We’ve had dog whisperers and ghost whisperers, but it all started with horses, and the best-known and most compelling equine confider turns out to be a shy, unassumingly worldly man who must be prodded to explain his preternatural insights.
The hero of Buck—a documentary that will satisfy viewers who have no interest in saddles and stables—was actually called Buckshot back when he was one of two little Brannaman brothers who performed rope tricks at rodeos and fairs all over the U.S. That sounds like a fun childhood but wasn’t, thanks to an alcoholic father who made the Beach Boys’ Murray Wilson look like Gentle Ben. His relentless abuse soured the boys on public life, and perhaps on each other, because Buck’s elder brother is never glimpsed and barely mentioned in this otherwise inclusive film. (Smokie Brannaman is, in fact, in the same line of work, and it would be interesting to explore their philosophical differences. But that can’t happen here.)
In any case, Buck’s intense sympathy for abused animals and wariness around people has made him the go-to guy for many horse owners with problem steeds. His self-effacing nature is likely a big part of their attraction to him, as it was for Nicholas Evans, who wrote The Horse Whisperer, and for Robert Redford, who here explains how Brannaman went from being a consultant on his film of the same name to being crucial on-screen, as well.
Certainly, this noncharisma, for want of a better term, is what motivated first-time filmmaker Cindy Meehl—a horsewoman who attended one of our man’s clinics in 2003—to get into the filmmaking business and, presumably, to do it this well. Brannaman may be a quiet fellow, but his whispers have been heard.
Watch the trailer for Buck.