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Unbranded

Four young men decide to travel from Mexico to Canada on horseback to raise awareness of the plight of America’s mustangs.

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There’s an acrimonious battle between animal rights activists, rangers, and ranchers for the mustangs, the wild horses in the US. The animals were imported from Spain, braided, and quickly spread out in the open spaces. Meadowland is in short supply – the wild animals compete with cattle herds that are also allowed to graze in the open land. This is why around 9,000 wild horses are caught and put up for adoption every year. Only 3,000 of them are actually adopted while the rest remain quartered. Four horse-loving young men decide to cross the US from Mexico to Canada to raise awareness for what’s happening to these horses. Ben Masters, the driving force of the group, says that for him it’s about proving how tenacious and useful these animals are. It sounds like capitalist exploitation at first. But then he adds that he feels they are similar to us, that there is no place for them here. And that sometimes he thinks there is no place for him either.
Before they begin, Ben, Jonny, Thomas and the second Ben train the 16 animals for several months. Their journey takes them through horrible cactus fields, the ruthless desert, the small, unprotected mountain paths of the Grand Canyon, lowlands, snow slush, and forests. The horses all have their quirks, but they remain in good condition throughout. A nice, stubborn donkey joins them for a part of the journey. The four men and their friends and colleagues, who accompany them at different points, don’t say much. There’s a small conflict about going in the right direction, some funny banter, a few sparse of updates about their moods. UNBRANDED is all about the impressions of the majestic landscape and the capable horses who cross it.

Hendrike Bake

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits

Original title: Unbranded
USA 2015, 106 min
Genre: Documentary
Director: Phillip Baribeau
Author: Ben Masters (II)
DOP: Korey Kaczmarek, Phillip Baribeau
Montage: Scott Chestnut
Music: Noah Sorota
Distributor: NFP marketing&distribution
Cast: Ben Masters (II), Ben Thamer, Jonny Fitzsimons
FSK: oA
Release: 18.02.2016

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