The battle for control and access to public land is one that has been raging around the world for decades. In the United States wild horses are allowed to run free on public land, but there’s a problem. These mustangs require grazing all year round, and that’s where the issues begin. The population is managed by the Bureau for Land Management (BLM) and there are currently 50,000 wild horses in holding accommodation as there’s simply not enough room for them to coexist with other livestock.
In 1990, Ben Masters completed a 2,000 mile ride along the continental divide with a couple of friends. They were broke at the time so adopted some mustangs instead as they were significantly cheaper. Impressed at how they outperformed domesticated horses and shocked to hear about their current plight, Ben conceived the idea of Unbranded. He invited riders Jonny Fitzsimons, Thomas Glover, and Ben Thamer along and recruited director Phillip Baribeau to document the journey from Mexico to the Canadian border.
Unbranded is essentially a film about four graduate friends making a journey together before they go their separate ways in the world. However, the issues surrounding preserving the public land and safeguarding the wild horses are the underlying message. All perspectives are covered but the overriding agreement is that urgent action needs to be taken to address the problems. Whilst the ride is full of humour, danger and Donquita, the most unresponsive donkey in the land, the real winner here is the beautiful American countryside. It’s absolutely stunning and needs to be preserved for future generations.
Unbranded is out in cinemas on Friday.