Youngsters on a trek of 3000 miles from Mexico to Canada discover America while also drawing attention to the controversial situation concerning wild horses.

The strongest impression left by this documentary is of the superb colour photography, the credit for which is shared by its director Phillip Baribeau and Korey Kaczmarek. That’s apt since this is a record of a journey set up in 2013 by Ben Masters for a trip undertaken by him and three friends. The animals they rode were wild horses from a holding facility run by the government and in the course of the film we learn from inserted comments just how controversial the position of these horses has become. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to limit their number to prevent overgrazing, but many do not accept this as valid and the condition of many holding facilities has been criticised. Masters wished to emphasise the quality of these unbranded animals over a long distance.




While airing this issue, the film is also as much about the journey taken as was Tracks which had the wonderful Mia Wasikowska enacting the story of Robyn Davidson. Like that film, Unbranded is episodic and it does come to seem overlong. Initially the undertaking, a variation on the more standard type of gap year, suggests something to inspire others who, like Masters and his friends, might be encouraged to enter on an adventure that also had a purpose. But later on (and the film is honest about this) Masters’s requirements lead to frictions. This rather cuts across the inspirational appeal without resulting in any drama potent enough to stir us in its own right.

If this is a film about landscape, it is equally one about horses. However, given its length, one comes to feel that despite the fine photography this is first and foremost for those with strong pre-existent interest in its subject matter. 




Featuring Ben Masters, Jonny Fitzsimons, Ben Thamer, Thomas Glover.

Dir Phillip Baribeau, Pro Dennis Aig, Ben Masters and Phillip Baribeau, Conceived by Ben Masters, Ph Phillip Baribeau and Korey Kaczmarek, Ed Scott Chestnut, Music Noah Sorota. 

Fin and Fur Films/Cedar Creek Productions/Implement-Dogwoof.
106 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 27 November 2015. Cert. 15.