A dramatic documentary, Unbranded, by Phillip Baribeau originally released in September, is currently scheduled to be rolled out in Moab and in Ashland, VA, on Feb. 13. Unbranded is a film about four ‘wannabe’ cowboys who embark on an ambitious 3,000-mile expedition to promote adoption of wild horses from our American West. The film, already available on DVD and Blu-Rae, will officially unveil in New Zealand theaters during the week of Feb. 18, followed by screenings in the states of Washington, Minnesota, Indiana and, by March, it will be released in the United Kingdom. This visually stunning film is rated PG-13 and runs for 105 minutes.
The young men start on their exciting but perilous adventure with 16 Mustangs, traveling from the Mexican border all the way north to Canada. Their trek lasts over five adventurous months and primarily crosses public lands through five western states. They ride through the several major national parks including Glacier National Park, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.
The final film results from countless hours of raw footage, often highlighting spectacular scenery and wild horses and other native animals. It informs us early on that horses, not an indigenous species, were introduced to North America 500 years ago by the Spanish conquistadors. The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 extended federal protection, allowing wild horses to run free despite the hostilities of ranchers who insist they cause permanent environmental damage. Ranchers continue to claim that wild, free-running horses have reached excessive numbers. At least 50,000 horses and burros have been captured and are now forced to live their lives in holding facilities.
Unbranded is informative, entertaining and thought provoking. It does have a few slow patches such as the fishing sequence and the personality critiques by the cowboys of each other. There are also silly moments. One in particular is during a campfire meal that has a rollicking farting session. The adorable burro Donquito will steal hearts, while the senior cowboy Val brings plenty of emotion. And, then there are the perilous moments experienced by the group along the narrow footpaths of the Grand Canyon. On occasion, the men experience surprising mental challenges, especially Jonny and Ben. Personalities flare on occasion, with differences of opinions and yelling matches. Horse lovers will enjoy the wild horses in their natural surroundings.
Unbranded is a beautiful, informative and contemporary viewing experience that brings an important United States issue to the public. It is a narrative, set to film, of the horse and its splendor, power, freedom, and hopes to advocate the horse’s perilous future. Unbranded seeks to strike a balance for horses, landowners and BLM.
The trip became an epic journey of self-discovery, tested friendships, and iconic landscapes that included runaway horses, a sassy donkey, perilous mountain passes, rodeos, sickness, injury, and death. Unbranded is a soaring tale of danger and resilience, an emotionally charged odyssey that shines a bright light on the complex plight of our country’s wild horses.
The documentary film discloses facts and figures and promotes advocacy. It indulges the audience with the striking natural beauty of the American West and its animals.
Unbranded clearly illustrates the magnificence, resilience and strength of America’s wild horses as well as their poignant plight.