‘The Long Rider’ makes you catch your breath – even if you know how Filipe Masetti Leite’s epic journey ends OCN News

The long rider

Documentary about the epic adventures on horseback of Filipe Masetti Leite. Directed by Sean Cisterna. Begins Friday at Cineplex Yonge-Dundas. 96 minutes. CS

You have to be damn sure of your story as your epic journey movie begins with its triumphant conclusion. If we already know that the trek was a success, why watch the rest?

“The Long Rider” is your answer. Sean Cisterna’s remarkable documentary is filled with so many pitfalls for its intrepid traveler – from drought to murderous heights to dangerous cartels – that even knowing the outcome, you’ll still find yourself catching your breath, wondering if disaster is imminent.

The film traces the more than two-year odyssey of Filipe Masetti Leite, a Brazilian cowboy, adventurer and journalist who lives in Toronto. Ten years ago, he embarked on a 16,000 kilometer horseback ride from the Calgary Stampede to the family estate in São Paulo, Brazil, where he lived before moving to Canada as a child. (Leite wrote about his multiple horse treks for the Star, trips that totaled 25,000 kilometers over eight years.)

His traveling companions for the film’s trip from Calgary to Brazil, which is integral to the story, were two quarter-horses named Frenchie and Bruiser, and a mustang named Dude who joined them along the way.

Leite, who was only 25 at the start of his journey, was inspired by “Tschiffely’s Ride”, the true story of Swiss author/adventurer Aimé Félix Tschiffely, who in the 1920s rode Argentina in New York with two beloved horses. Leite’s father used to read the book to young Filipe at bedtime, sparking dreams in the day-old as he embarked on his own long ride.

The aspiration turned into roadside reality in July 2012 when Leite, Frenchie and Bruiser left the Calgary Stampede with an RCMP escort and goodbye hugs and kisses from loved ones. They were beginning an arduous journey that would take them more than 16,000 kilometers across 10 international borders, battling scorching heat, cold, rainstorms, drought, bears, dizzying heights, car crashes, injuries, fatigue and loneliness while engaging with people of good and not so good intention.

As well as being the film’s focal point, the resourceful and likeable Leite also acts as narrator and cinematographer. He speaks on camera while traveling (he used mini GoPro cameras, among other gear) and in formal posed memories that connect the many incidents that occurred during his 803-day journey.

We also get historical background and practical information from scholar CuChullaine O’Reilly, a veteran rider who founded an equestrian group known as the Long Riders’ Guild. (Many thanks here to director Cisterna and editor Lee Walker, who really had their work cut out putting all this material together.)

Leite is quick with a smile and he’s not one to give up easily, two traits that serve him well. The trouble starts right from the start, when he realizes too late that he left Calgary without water and that he will have to improvise.

Over the coming months, Leite and his steeds encounter the natural challenges of harsh weather and rugged terrain, which have been exacerbated by global warming – the film can be seen as a cautionary tale on the environment – as well as the whims of the people they meet along the way.

Some are there to rip off travelers or delay them, including the many border guards Leite has to bribe, cajole or sneak around. Others turn out to be angels in disguise, including the ranchers who donated Frenchie, Bruiser and Dude to Leite, and the many farmers who give them food, water and a place to lay their heads down. night, which in many cases is a grassy area. outside under a canopy of stars.

Crowds of admirers join him along the way, especially as he gets closer to Brazil. One man even writes a cowboy ballad about her. Another asks Leite to carry the ashes of his sister, Naomi, a horse lover who died tragically young and whom the man is convinced would have wanted to be part of such an epic journey.

The others are more difficult to read. A cartel boss seems friendly and generous at first but turns violent when a dinner invitation from his wife provokes jealousy. In another charged incident, Leite wanders into a murder scene: a man is shot for stealing a chicken and a rooster.

Danger can be as obvious as an icy mountain highway with a perilous descent and as hidden as a giant hole in the grass that can swallow a horse.

Leite is met along the way by friends, family members, and his girlfriend, who fly out to join him for brief but joyful encounters. For the most part, however, Leite is alone, observing that while he sees many awe-inspiring sunsets, they aren’t nearly as awe-inspiring when viewed alone. Yet he also finds the trip to be a life-changing experience.

And he’s the first to say he’s not really alone when he’s around Frenchie, Bruiser and Dude, whom he calls “my kids.” They’re full of personality: the mischievous Frenchie, the controlling Dude, and the majestic Bruiser, who bonds so closely with Leite “he just reads your mind.”

The three are loyal companions, adding immeasurably to the drama and comedy of the trip and the film.

As author John Steinbeck once wrote of travel: “We find that after years of struggle, we don’t go on a journey; a journey takes us.

“The Long Rider” puts this claim to the test and confirms it beautifully.


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