Buck Brannaman is one cool dude. And I do mean a dude: an authentic cowboy and horse whisperer. The horse whisperer, really; he served as an inspiration for Nicholas Evans’ novel and later became a technical advisor and stunt double on Robert Redford’s cinematic adaptation. The man is so good with horses it looks like he’s communicating with them telepathically.
In a way, he is. As we see in the heartwarming documentary “Buck,” decades of practice have transformed Brannaman into one of the world’s premiere horse trainers (though, to hear Brannaman tell it, he’s really training the horse’s owners rather than the horses themselves). He’s so in tune with his pupils he can move them with a gesture or a wave of his hand. But it’s not all touchy-feely times during “Buck” though; Brannaman had a sad and brutal childhood at the hands of an abusive father. To a certain degree, he’s an orphan like his more difficult charges. Maybe that’s why he’s so good at his job.
“Buck,” directed by Cindy Meehl, is a fine film, accessible and interesting even to people who, like me, aren’t exactly master horsemen (remind me to tell you sometime about my one horseback riding experience, with Watusi the Farting Horse). As you’ll see in the interview, Brannaman just radiates this aura of calm. I wish I had some of that. Zen is cool.