Last Tuesday night HE Manhattan correspondent Dylan Wells caught Cindy Meehl‘s Buck (Sundance Selects, 6.17). “What stands out,” he reports, “is not the indisputable charm of Buck Brannaman or the harrowing story of his childhood. Nor the beautiful photography or even the numerous laughter and heart moments.
Buck Brannaman, Cindy Meehl and IFC Films’ Jonathan Sehring at last Tuesday night’s (6.7) screening.
“Rather it is the many universal truths that Buck discovered throughout his growth as a prodigal cowboy and horse trainer. Truths that he bestows generously and often in first-time-director Cindy Meehl’s impressive documentary. Truths that deserve a moment’s consideration whether or not you would stand on one foot for a horse.
“‘It never occurred to me to have disdain for a horse,’ Buck explains about an especially troubled stud who’s been brought to one of his clinics. During the film he also passes along some fundamental lessons.
“The behavior of a horse reflects more so upon the owner than the creature itself. Which is why if an owner expects any cooperation from a horse, he/she must first learn what the horse needs in return. You need to see yourself through the eyes of a creature that is first and foremost concerned with its own well-being. If you want the privilege of feeling secure around a conventionally wild animal, then you must do all that is in your power to make sure that animal is spared of any insecurity.
“Watching this feature was a zen-like experience for myself. Perhaps that’s just what I wanted to take from it, or needed to take from it. But based on the very warm reception that the film received from the audience, I don’t think I’m alone.
“Whether it is training a horse, raising a child, or even honing a discipline of your own such as writing, visual arts or engineering, the philosophy of Buck can and should be applied. Know your objective and respect the dangers of resentment, frustration, and impulsive behavior. Treat your goals with the same respect and caution that you would a wild horse, and you are far less likely to get kicked in the mouth.”
Here’s my South by Southwest review, posted on 3.16.11.