In the United States there are 50,000 wild horses running free on government holding facilities. These horses have gotten a bad reputation as untamed, unmanageable and therefore unwanted. In Phillip Baribeau’s documentary Unbranded, we see young Texas cowboy Ben Masters and three of his friends set out to ride sixteen mustangs from the Mexican border to Canada through 3,000 miles of the most treacherous roads and mountains. Those guys are not what you would expect from wild west types. They read books while they ride, embrace the horses as if they were lovers and hugs and say “I love you” to each other. Not your father’s cowboys. Val Geissler, an older rancher who is helping them, says they remind him of his dead son and that makes him cry. We get emotionally attached to the horses. I found it hard to watch when they met danger on the roads and they risked being injured. They are such beautiful creatures. But there are also some fun to be had. There is a campfire scene that recalls Blazing saddles. And the comic relief is provided by Donquita, a donkey who does what you’d expect from a donkey. It is stubborn and it brays. The soaring score by Noah Sorora channels both Ennio Morricone and Elmer Bernstein. The cinematographer is Baribeau himself. The beauty of the landscape is enough to recommend Unbranded. Stunning!

Rémi-Serge Gratton


Directed by:
Phillip Baribeau

105 min.



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