Yesterday's documentary film, in class, was Buck, which was among the top fifteen documentaries nominated for an Oscar this year. Buck is the horse trainer who was Robert Redford's consultant for The Horse Whisperer. He began at the age of three as a rope twirler/trick man with his father and older brother. His mother died when he was still pre-school, the father had serious anger problems and whipped the boys fiercely. Finally a coach at school saw the welts and saw to it that the boys were put in a foster home. Nothing in the movie says what became of the brother or the father. Buck became extraordinary.
Two older men, from whom he learned about handling horses were his role models teaching him to respect horses and think about their psychology and understand that the owners and trainers were often the horse's problem. He is shown working with horses and with people, he's respectful of the animal and straight taking to the humans. His foster mother is shown, she raised 23 foster boys. Somehow she gave a very scarred boy enormous compassion and knowledge of psychology. He was shown with his wife and his daughter, a loving family.
The movie, The Horse Whisperer was one I enjoyed but I would not have seen it three times except that shortly after it came out I went somewhere that meant a long overseas flight and, as it happened, the movie was shown on both the going and return flights. It was warm and moving enough that I actually watched those extra times. I think I was given brief rides on horses when I was small, nothing that would deserve saying I've ever ridden a horse. For a few years now I've been thinking I've missed something and semi-dreaming of a dude ranch vacation or one of the horseback trips guides arrange in the Rockies. I'd like to ride a horse. And even more so after this movie.
The movie was so simple and the people so good hearted that I don't think prize givers will rank as highly as something more dramatic. I'm glad such a movie has been shown widely and will be available for some time. Buck's method and the message of respect for an animal -- rather than the owner/slave mentality -- is a message that cannot be told too often or too strongly.
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