November 17-20, 2016
by Patricia N. Saffran
This year’s Equus Film Festival opened November 17th with a celebratory party at the Equus Pop-Up Gallery in the Ukrainian National Home. Created by Lisa Diersen four years ago in St. Charles, Illinois, the festival relocated and is now in its third year in New York City. Filmmakers, actors, authors, and artists flew in from all over the world to attend. The catering was provided by sponsor Lucas Oil Estate/Protect the Harvest with Executive Chef, Todd Shidler presiding.
Panel discussions on a variety of topics took place at the same venue the following two days while screenings of the 149 films were held at the nearby historic Village East Cinema. The panel discussion of International Filmmakers showcased a variety of equine subjects. The travel effort by the producers was appreciated by attendees who viewed this diverse group of films. Panelists included:
- Stefan Morel, from Canada, described his film, HERD, “It’s about eight individuals who went on a retreat with horses as their healers.” The film was shot in the gorgeous mountains in British Columbia with interviews of the participants. HERD won Equus Equestrian Director Full Length.
- Florian Figge from Germany told the audience about his entries: an ad for German Racing, and Maxios, a short about continuing the bloodlines of the best German Thoroughbred who died, and also Lomitas, His Story, about Monty Roberts’ amazing rehabilitation of the racehorse. He said, “Lomitas had us all in tears.” This film won Equus Equestrian International Documentary.
- Sam Fleet, director from the UK, described his company’s films, “For some films we used a specially designed jockey cam for more exciting action to interest the public in racing, as in Many Clouds”- about the Grand National winner trying at win a second time. Fleet’s Horsepower for the UK Jockey Club was another of his films being shown. His The Island Project won Equus Equestrian Director International.
- Ralf Schauwacker, director from Germany, told the audience about his movie, FREI [Free], “Working on FREI gave me a sense of peacefulness and changed the way I look at riding.” The film showcases liberty training, as well as riding and jumping with no bridle. FREI won Equus Best of Festival International.
- Luiza Jacobsen from Brazil, characterized her eight short ads for the Rio Olympics using a horse, Billy to Rio, “It was a social media campaign with a big following to get the public’s attention for the horse events and other competitions.” Billy to Rio won the Equus Commercial On Line Judging.
An Australian entry, The Four Horsemen, directed by Peter Davies, is the fascinating true story of the four brave Ashton polo playing brothers who in the 1930s traveled to England and became a surprising success. Wal Ashton, who commissioned the movie explained, “I’m the son of the captain, Jim Ashton, the oldest of the brothers. I decided to do the film because if I didn’t do it the information would be lost.” This movie won the Equus Equestrian International Full Documentary award.
Another international entrant was Bedouin Horsemaster, UK, directed by Eric Averkiou, about the reknown Berber horse trainer, Ali Al Ameri. He turns problem horses around in record time.
Among the American entries of note is T-Galop: A Louisiana Horse Story, directed by Connie Castille, about the disappearing bush tracks in Louisiana where jockeys learned their craft at a young age.
Amanda Roxborough, a consummate horse woman with a career which included roles as jockey and trainer now movie and television producer, adds a yet another award to her resume stating, "Winning People's Choice" award for Documentary Short at the Equus Film Festival for my film Arabian Horse Racing was exciting and I was grateful for the opportunity to showcase the Pure bred Arabian. This film takes you on the journey from the Arabian Peninsula to the global development of the sport of Arabian horse racing across Europe and into America. I wanted to share the story of the original race horse!" Ms Roxborough was previously featured on EIE
Another noteworthy American film is the appealing Running Wild, directed by Alex Ranarivelo. Sharon Stone co-produced the movie which was also financed by Protect the Harvest. Ms. Stone portrays a villain who tries to grab mustangs for her sanctuary. The plot involves saving a ranch from financial ruin by inviting inmates to gentle and train said mustangs. Audience members wondered why a very valuable Thoroughbred in the ranch stable somehow has no camera surveillance, no sprinkler system, no night watchman or even dogs to guard him, thereby leaving the nearby mustangs vulnerable as well. First time script co-writer, actress, co-producer, Christina Moore, who has a role in the movie, spoke to the audience after the screening. When asked why she wrote the script, Ms. Moore had difficulty answering the question. She admitted that at the beginning of writing, she actually knew nothing about horses. This film won Equus People’s Choice Full Length.
Unfortunately, the Equus Film Festival included drama off the screen. Dave Duquette attended representing sponsor Protect the Harvest and assaulted Clant Seay from the Citizens Campaign Against "Big Lick" Animal Cruelty during a forum due to differing opinions. Upon further escalation and menacing behavior by Mr. Duquette, the publisher from Equine InfoExchange.com bravely intervened to break up the impeding fist fight. The choice of sponsor Protect the Harvest by the EFF was highly controversial and Mr. Duquette was clearly ill equipped as brand ambassador and further tarnished their image.