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A Who’s-Who of the 2015 Equus Film Festival NYC

Candace Wade reports on her recent trip to NYC.

Photo courtesy of Equus Film Festival NYC.

Photo courtesy of Equus Film Festival NYC.

In addition to participating on a book writers’ panel and moderating a panel on Tennessee Walking Horse soring (check out her astute Horse Nation article on the topic here), HN writer Candace Wade had the opportunity to take in all the sights and sounds of the 2015 Equus Film Festival, held November 22-23 in New York City. She kindly reported back to us with some of the highlights of her trip. 

Equine films, documentaries, discussion panels, print art, literature and the electric energy of audience anticipation whooshed warp-speed as I crossed the threshold of the Equus Film Festival NYC. The quality of national and international representation convinced me that saving my pennies for next year (ha! “save dollars”… it’s New York) is frugality with a blue-chip pay off.

An hour-by-hour menu of activities layered four thick — all deliciously enticing — made choices difficult. With three film screens, panels, authors’ pop-ups at the Ukrainian Restaurant two blocks away and hoards of horse-jiggy people to meet, I experienced much and missed more.

The following experiences and artists shone for me.

VISUAL ART

Two sculptures, “Blue Jean Jumper” and “Fleur,” watched over the award presentations with equestrian power and motion — one sculpted in denim, the other in paper flowers. They were created by 15-year-old Shya Beth from New Jersey, who happens also to be a Horse Nation contributor (check out her preview of the festival here) and author of the art blog The Flying Shetlands.

Shya explains that “Blue Jean Jumper” is the first of a series of about 12 blue jean horses she is making. “Each horse will represent different disciplines/breeds/mythological horses, travel to different equine shows/events/galleries and be signed by top riders/prominent people in their respective fields. Once every horse is full of signatures, they will be auctioned off to benefit horse charities globally.”

Shya is an incredibly gifted young artist and we’re all looking forward to watching her art career develop in the future!

"Blue Jean Jumper" by Shya Beth

“Blue Jean Jumper” by Shya Beth.

"Fleur" by Shya Beth

“Fleur” by Shya Beth.

FILM

Of the winners I was very much impressed by the “Commercial Film” winner, Get Your Heart Jumping, a documentary about Irish jump jockeys produced by Nathan Horrock of Equine Productions of the UK (check out the trailer here). Get Your Heart Jumping was commissioned by The Jockey Club and used innovative filming angles and latest technology to capture the athleticism of the racehorse and the skill of jump jockeys.

The film’s tagline “Those who don’t jump will never fly” didn’t take into account the audience’s sensation of flying as we soared over the jumps with the help of “jockey-cams” and a camera drone. We were in on the jokes as Nathan and his team cut up while facing choke-the-throat filming of the manic pace of Irish jump racing.

Best TV Program” was won by Pamela Kettle with Wild About Barns on Ride TV. The production team scours the country for barns and the stories behind them. Small world: Pamela was familiar with my home of Franklin, Tennessee, having filmed the use of barn wood in two of my favorite dining spots.

Bellevue Barn at Barn Fest in Kansas (Pamela Kettle Wild About Barns)

Bellevue Barn at Barn Fest in Kansas. Photo courtesy of Pamela Kettle/Wild About Barns.

A Sunday Horse, written by Fred T. Keuhnert and Vic Armstrong, won “Best Feature” and was named “Official Selection of the Li’l Herc Family Fest” at the festival. The Li’l Herc Fest offered free films for children on Saturday morning based on Hercules, the Lusitano owned by author Suzanne Kopp Moskow. Vic has worked as a stunt double in many films including for Harrison Ford in Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom. Yet to be released, the trailer for A Sunday Horse isn’t yet available but more information can be found on the IMDB website here.

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Filmmaker Tom Lloyd of Dreamtime Film enchanted me with snaps and stories of his rare Fell Ponies and caravans of gypsy wagons. Tom’s Live Before You Die, highlighting the preservation and exhibition of his Fell Ponies, won “Art Film Mini“…

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…and he also topped the “Music Video Short” category for his production of The Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co. song “Pony.”

PANELS

Directors’ Panel

The International Creators Panel showcased filmmakers from the UK, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, India and Italy. Get Your Heart Jumping — Behind the Scenes by Nathan Horrock was the featured adrenaline pump.

Paolo Boriani spoke with Italian-laced wonder and passion of his film Saga, based on the equestrian opera of the Giovanni Lindo Ferretti (singer, songwriter, composer). Paolo’s journey from Italy was rewarded when Saga won “Art Film Feature Length.”

Equine Issues Panels

At “The Right Side of the Track — The Positive Side of Horse Racing” panel, moderated by LA Pomeroy, I was taken with the film The Black Turf Project by Ken Browne of Ken Browne Productions.

The trailer was an eye-opener on the historic roll African American jockeys play in horse racing. The special guest was jockey Ronnie Tanner, a top rider at Aqueduct and Monmouth Park race tracks where he was virtually the only African American jockey.

"Right Side of the Track" panel.

“The Right Side of the Track” panel.

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The panel with Jockey Ronnie Tanner.

The “Horse Defenders Panel” began at 8:15 p.m. with three films that wrecked my sleep: Born to Die, an exposé on milk mare foals; a piece on a disturbing horse neglect case in Marshal County, Tennessee; and the Humane Society of the United States’ undercover film Tennessee Walking Horse Investigation Exposes Cruelty, which appalled the nation when its visuals of soring and horse beating made the Internet rounds. The seven person panel included four film makers: Richard “Kudo” Couto, Katia Louise, Sharon Boeckle and Neta Rhyme.

I could feel the fizz of energy in the room when I took the helm of my panel, “Soring — What Are They Thinking?

We began with three films:  AAWHA filmmaker Suzi Clark’s “Pass the PAST Act,” “See It Through My Eyes – The Big Lick,” a film created by Girl Scout Troop # 44 from Franklinville, New York, and the HSUS Tennessee Walking Horse film (shown above).

Each of my panelists had strong points of view. The edgy discussion among Leana Stormont (HSUS attorney, Equine Division), Suzi Clark (AAWHA filmmaker), Jeannie McGuire (AAWHA advocate), Walter Blankinship (Kingston Stables owner and Performance Walking Horse support) and Dr. Gregory Beroza (equine vet and spokesperson for responsible and reasonable advocacy) rocketed through our allotted hour.

Hands shot up in the audience when I called for questions. We got the hook after two questions with the next panel impatient in the lobby. The panel, the audience, onlookers and I reconvened in the lobby to continue the energetic discussion.

 

The soring panel with Soring panel (Candace Wade - moderator, Jeannie (AAWHA), Suzi (AAWHA- filmmaker), Leana (HSUS), Dr. G (vet) and Walter (Kingston Stables)

The soring panel with Candace Wade, Jeannie McGuire, Suzi Clark, Leana Stormont, Dr. Gregory Beroza and Walter Blankinship.

The soring panel and audience.

The soring panel and audience.

Equine advocacy seemed to light the klieg lights at the festival. Included were HSUS, AAWHA, Dr. Lester Friedlander and Nancy Watson with Citizens Against Equine Slaughter, Dawn Mellen, president of After the Finish Line Thoroughbred RescueNeta Rhyme with the Thundering Hooves Project and the film Their Last Ride, Animal Recovery Mission, director of Kill Pen Sharon Boeckle, Sonja Meadows with Animal Angels, director of Ambassadors for Compassion Linda Harris, Ariane Rezvani with Horse Connection Center, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign Suzanne Roy, and Mitch Bornstein, author of The Last Chance Mustang and that doesn’t even complete the list.

The Attendeees

They burst into the buttery leather elegance of the Manhattan Saddlery VIP Party, radiating all the expectant joy of warm-welcome West Texas.

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VIP Party at Manhattan Saddlery

I found this support-posse with the film Their Last Ride irresistible. Filmmakers Neta Rhyme and Michael Aku RoDriguez of So Be It Films  are dedicated to ignite awareness of the legal and black market horse slaughter whose trucks barrel past Neta and her husband Darrel’s mailbox on their way to the butchers in Mexico. Their team included Karen Harding, anti-slaughter advocate Sonja Meadows of Animal Angels, and Margo Holly Gulburnson with Saddle Up Clothing.

Yes, I was jealous when Karen told me about their rent-horse ride through Central Park!

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Margo Holly Gulburnson, guide and Karen Harding.

I visited with film and horse enthusiasts from the west coast, east coast, the heartland, Canada and Europe. I met Robin Henry, the wife of my bookstall mate in the lobby. Her husband Dutch Henry is an equine advocate and author of It’s For the Horses. I also had the pleasure of meeting representatives from the New York State Horse Council, as well as Linda Harris and Dawn Mellen, president and founder of After the Finish Line Thoroughbred Rescue (you can check out my interview with Dawn here).

 

Interviews with a few attendees who traveled from far and wide for the festival:

See You in 2016!

Start your Equus Film Festival NYC 2016 piggybank now. The festival is an explosion of film art, quality literature, ethereal print art, thought provoking panels, equine advocacy and hundreds of new friends drawn together by horses. Bravi to creator Lisa Diersen and her team of production virtuosi:  LA Pomeroy, Diana De Rosa and Suzanne Kopp-Moskow.

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Lisa Diersen, Diana De Rosa, Lisa, Suzanne Kopp-Moskow and LA Pomeroy.

Go Riding!

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