SXSW Film '10 — The Ride

Meredith Danluck’s documentary about the Professional Bull Riding circuit, a traveling band of the world’s top bull riders, has a lot to like about it. It also needs a lot of work before it becomes the amazing film it could be.

Danluck’s film follows a smattering of participants in the PBR circuit — from bull riders to a national anthem singer with higher aspirations.

The film is bookended by footage from two gigs — showcasing some of the amazing risks the bull riders put themselves into on a nightly basis. The real meat of the movie, though, are the stories told by the participants. One at a time, audiences are introduced to faces behind the PBR including a bull rider who grew up in an Amish community and a rodeo clown who proves that fooling for a living around can wear on the soul.

Unfortunately, the chapter-book nature of the movie — where each individual subject gets their own five to ten minute moment in the sun — gives the film a segmented feel. After the first two or three chapters, audiences will begin to loose interest with the seemingly repetitive nature of some of the subjects. Besides a few stand-out participants with truly interesting back-stories, the documentary’s subjects tend to be content leading a quiet life of solitude on their ranch when their not riding bulls — not exactly thrilling stuff.

The film could, I believe, be saved by trimming out some of the repetitive subjects and mixing up some of the tales in a more interesting narrative fashion — a la Murderball.

The movie, well shot and produced, has a lot of interesting stories but watching the film to get to those nuggets of fascination is an endurance test that, at this point, may not be worth undertaking.

Category: Spotlight Premieres

Director: Meredith Danluck

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The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit www.sxsw.com/film.