All the Wild Horses

 

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Mongolia is the setting for this account of a remarkable sporting event.

 
all the wild horses

 

This is a film about a horse race of a very distinctive kind. Initiated as recently as 2009, the Mongol Derby has been described as the longest horse race on the planet and, indeed, it lasts for eight days and covers some 650 miles. That Ivo Marloh should want to bring this event to the screen is entirely understandable, not least because, taking place on the steppes of Mongolia, it provides a background well suited to being shot in colour and ’Scope and then seen in a cinema.

 

The approach here is eminently sensible. At the outset it is explained that the distance involved is such that along the way there are twenty-seven horse stations run by nomads where the participants have to change horses. We learn too that given the concern for the health of the wild Mongolian horses as well as for their riders the set-up involves regular veterinary checks leading to penalties if an animal is found not to be in proper condition. With the pattern of the event thus established and backed up by brief comments from a whole range of contestants that bring out their differing attitudes, the film gradually narrows its focus. In time, six riders emerge as the key figures and we follow them from day to day over the course.

 

Of the six, two are loners. One of these is the initial front-runner, a young woman from America, Devan Horn, who displays rare strength of purpose but may have misjudged the effect of the heat. The other, possessed of strong riding skills, is Monde Kanyana, a novel sight in the region because he is a black man from South Africa. Two Irish friends, Donie Fahy and Richie Killoran, arrive together and maintain that bond throughout, while Julie Youngblood, again from America, and Charlotte Treleaven, who hails from Britain, meet on arrival and quickly develop a friendship. Many other riders feature more briefly, but the six are well chosen to be central since all of them have personalities that engage the viewer.

 

In 2014’s horse-racing film Palio made in Siena by Cosima Spender we witnessed filmmaking of quite exceptional quality while its social context made it more than a film about sport. All the Wild Horses lacks these extra elements, but it is a straightforward appealing piece that will certainly please those who love horses (indeed in one respect - the care for the animals that we witness here - it will undoubtedly win more approval from animal lovers than Palio did). Those drawn by the sport on view here, including a suspenseful finale on the eighth day, will certainly not be disappointed by the film and will find the featured riders appealing too. The only real regret is that some swearing has earned the film a 15 certificate with the result children who might well have been attracted by the Mongol Derby will miss out.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Devan Horn, Monde Kanyana, Donal Fahy, Richard Killoran, Julie Youngblood, Charlotte Treleaven, Margaret Pattinson, Kate Wellings, Michaela Gradinger, Simon Pearse, Will Grant, Ben de Rivaz.

 

Dir Ivo Marloh, Pro Ivo Marloh and Darcia Martin, Screenplay Ivo Marloh, Ph Ivo Marloh and Michael J. Sanderson, Ed Ivo Marloh, Music Christopher Barnett.

 

3rd-i Films/Guerilla Docs/Martilo Pictures/The Urban Ant/Twickenham Studios-Guerilla Films.
89 mins. Mongolia/South Africa/UK/USA/Ireland. 2017. Rel: 8 June 2018. Cert. 15.