Saturday, 4 February 2012


Madman Films
Now Showing

Much like last year's Bill Cunningham New York, Cindy Meehl's documentary, Buck, focusses on one man who has made his passion his life's work.

Buck Brannaman, like photographer Mr. Cunningham, seems to be one of those fortunate few who successfully subscribes to the adage 'find something you're good at and try to make money from it', although one suspects Buck (and Bill) would do what they do regardless of the financial rewards.

Buck is an advocate of natural horsemanship, or in more romantic terms, he's a horse whisperer: able to bend the untamed horse to his will without the use of physical duress. He hosts clinics where, rather than 'breaking a horse in', Buck uses the term 'starting', and his approach speaks as much to the animal as it does the owner.

Not so much believing that horses are people too, Buck very much subscribes to the notion that the horse is a mirror into the soul of its owner. He doesn't get all mystical about it, but he's often proved correct in his theory that if the horse is troubled, the owner probably is too.

Not that Buck Brannaman is without his own dark past. Abused by his father, who had Buck and his older brother perform rope tricks on television and as part of a travelling show, he was fostered out following his mother's death when he was still a child.

Buck's now elderly foster mother appears in the film (she tells a wonderful joke in the closing credits, where we are also see that Buck and his brother are still in touch, although he doesn't appear in the doco), and her and her husband's approach to child rearing (they raised 23 foster children, all boys) no doubt influenced Buck's world outlook.

Rather than dwell in the past or repeat the cycle of abuse, Buck chose a positive path, one which benefits both horse and owner - and his family. He's married and a father, with a wife and teenage daughter who intermittently join him as he travels the United States helping "horses with people problems".

Buck may not be a hard hitting documentary but it has its hand-to-your-mouth moments, one in particular involving a disturbed horse that even the 'horse whisperer' cannot save. But as a study of someone who loves what he does and does good in the bargain, it serves as a wonderful example to us all.

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