The Long Rider

The Long Rider is a welcomed return to documentary filmmaking for director Sean Cisterna (Moon Point, Kiss and Cry, From the Vine).

I liked Cisterna’s last doc, 30 Ghosts.  Despite what the title suggested, 30 Ghosts was actually about a paranormal investigator cherishing and staying loyal to their passion. The Long Rider treads similar ground, following modern adventurer and folk hero Filipe Leite as he travels on horseback from Calgary to his parents’ house in Brazil (a trip Leite estimates will take him, roughly, two years to complete). 

The viewer is attached to Leite’s hip as he travels down highway shoulders, the edges of steep cliffs, picturesque countrysides, and dicey border crossings;  meeting people who have either heard of his personal mission or quickly become fans of his optimistic and open-hearted demeanour.  Filipe’s genine emotions shine through every frame of The Long Rider and Cisterna, in a trustworthy move towards his subject, allows the cowboy to guide the audience.

The Long Rider rushes into the trip, though, and I would’ve liked to spend more time with Leite as he prepared for his journey.  We catch glimpses in his interviews of the steps he had to take to get ready for the intimidating trek, but nothing more than a few clips.  We earn a few more details through Cuchullaine O’Reilly, the keen and eccentric founder of The Long Riders’ Guild, but nothing that truly characterizes Leite’s goals.  Imagine if Free Solo started with Alex Honnold’s first steps on El Capitan, or missing all of Tommy Caldwell’s traumatic backstory in The Dawn Wall.  Even when comparing The Long Rider to Le Ride or The Barkley Marathons, two other fascinating docs that chronicle daunting athletic challenges, the latter films still provide more purpose and personality behind their pursuits.

The Long Rider creates a personal experience for the audience, but feels like it’s missing a significant chunk of material to earn more anticipation towards the film’s main event.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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