This movie is half-hour film that has just won two TULLY awards.
Background: Film maker Mara LeGrand, is an award winning film director, screenwriter, videographer, and photo-journalist. Mara’s PhD degree is in public and holistic health field. She started Skydancer Productions in 2006 with a goal to make films that focuses on the health of the planet and its inhabitants. “Wild Horses in Winds of Change” is her third film where she produced, directed, wrote to mention a few of her tasks. To view her website on the film, please Click Here
Valentina: How would you describe your latest film to the equestrian community, Wild Horses in Winds of Change?
If people love horses they will be moved by this film, even if it challenges some of their belief systems. I hope it inspires more people to love horses and become part of a return of a horse culture. I’m not part of the equestrian community now, but both my Granddad’s were true grit cowboys who claimed the best days of their lives were on the back of broncs. — so a love for wild horses seems to be in my DNA.
Valentina: Is there a particular reason why you decided to do this film?
The film began following mustang adoption stories. As I began researching the issue, I knew I wouldn’t be able to turn my back on the wild horse cause.
Valentina: What surprised you about completing this film?
I wasn’t sure I would make this documentary because I couldn’t wrap around any great solutions. I like happy endings, not tragedies. So, while I was researching and filming I was posting little youtube videos about adoptions, round ups, mustang trainings and so on. Two years into the project I put together a rough cut of about 20 minutes of the interviews and footage in an attempt to find funding. About one month later, at a truly low point for me, I received an invitation for my film to have a world premiere at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood via ARTIVIST Film Festival. They said they received the film by mysterious circumstances and had to google me to find my contact information. An anonymous person sent them one of the rough cut screener copies circulating. Since I’m a person who looks for signs of what direction I’m supposed to go next, I took this invitation as an important one since ARTIVIST Film Festival honors films dedicated to art and activism. They had screened my film as a “short” because it was only a 20 min cut at that point. So when I asked how long my film was, they told me the max it could be for their programming was thirty minutes. I had 300 hours of footage and interviews that I imagined making a series with but since this offer was in front of me, I decided it was destined to be.
Valentina: Many individuals think that the thought of rounding up horses is a great idea, what are your thoughts?
Round ups by helicopter are brutal and inhumane. When I began the film I was under the impression that the BLM knew their wild horses and hired horse specialists to manage them and cull the weak and injured. Although my research and interviews were indicating otherwise – I needed to attend a round up, interview BLM employees and witness the look of fear and betrayal in the eyes of the horses as everything they knew and loved were callously ripped from them.
What does it say about us as humans if we can’t protect these noble creature and honor their time-tested ability to survive? The BLM has fenced these nomadic creatures into less and less land that is also allocated for high impact cattle grazing and because all natural resources are tapped by multi-use extractive enterprises and ranchers have rid the range of natural predators, specifically the wolf, over – population can become a problem. Ecologists who study the wild horses indicate that the horses breed more when they are stressed and manipulated. This makes sense since these are wild animals of prey breed for the species to survive. However, no matter how much land we give them and how much we leave them alone, eventually their will be too many to flourish on some ranges. It would save a lot of suffering and money if the BLM actually cared enough to set up non-biased, long term studies, range by range to gather data. University students and so many NGO’s would love to get involved but the BLM rejects offers that don’t fit their antiquated management directive. Helicopter drives should be out-lawed, and a new paradigm for managing wild life, including wild horses in their natural habitat developed.
Valentina: Do you mind when others think that your movies are controversial such as your first move about local sustainable agriculture?
My first film Heart & Soil, about local agriculture isn’t in my opinion anywhere as controversial as the wild horse film. Of course there is a lot wrong with the industrial food system but I chose to stay mostly on the sunny side of the fence and highlight the farmers dedicated to local agriculture. Heart & Soil is a family film that is over-all upbeat. Since I’ve been a vegetarian all my life I wondered why I was making a film that included animal husbandry – but as journalist I felt like the story unfolded as the animals were raised in optimally good circumstances and all were given a fast and painless death. Most people will always choose to eat meat, so at the very least I wanted to raise awareness about the ethical responsibility meat eaters should have toward the lives they raise for food and profit.
Compassion for animals is also a running theme in Wild Horses In Winds of Change but I did choose to delve into more controversial issues, because we are all responsible for America’s wild horses and I believe if we collectively pressure the current cart before the horse attitude – we could save a lot of horses from brutal round ups and long term warehousing. My goal is to attract more interest and advocacy, from the horse camp and non-horse camp. Informing people has the potential to lead to more sustainable solutions for the wild horses and for healthy range land ecology. Library Journal describes my film as beautifully rendered and very persuasive. I consider that a great endorsement because my goal was to capture the beauty of the horses and persuade people to care and get involved. There’s lots of reason to be angry and I have been, but anger isn’t beautiful, creative, compassionate, enlightened or conscious shifting and those are the qualities I believe we all need to solve the wild horse and for that matter the unwanted horse and rampant animal abuse issues.
Valentina: Describe this past year since filming Wild Horses in Winds of Change, have you been more involved with the mustangs?
I am mystified by horses. I love smelling them and feeling the warmth of their chi and heart beat. I visit the mustangs whose adopter got me into the film. I’ can send a couple pics of them with me if you’re interested. The buck skin colt was adopted first by Claude Steelman a well – known wild life photographer. (wildshots.com) , We then searched together for a companion for his colt. He decided on a gelding that was rescued from the Three Strikes ranch in Nebraska because he thought he would be a good riding horse and of course he liked his color and confirmation. Cisco has suffered too much abuse and betrayal and likely has PTSD. He easily spooks when he’s ridden but is a real sweetie as a companion. I saw so many mustangs who didn’t live up to their naive owners expectations. They’re passed, like juvenile delinquents from one owner to another until eventually they end up on skid roe/ sale barn bound for slaughter. Mustangs need to be trained by skillful, caring and experienced trainers and I didn’t want to make a film that inspired any joe to empty their piggy bank to adopt one.
Valentina: Do you love animals more than people?
It’s probably easier to love animals because they’re far less complicated and demanding than humans. I learn many lessons from animals that I try to transfer to my relationships and acceptance of people.
Valentina: Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
I have many philosophies that guide me forward. Making this film fell into one about not turning away a beggar at my door. I grew up living in Turkey where beggars were common. If a beggar, a stray animal or anyone in need asked for help from my parents, they were never turned away. My siblings are also altruistic, each with our own sensibilities of what’s important to contribute to.
Valentina: You write lots of poetry, if you can wrote a poem about your life, what would you call it?
“No one needs a poet, but I , who without nature’s beauty could not breathe.”