School friends Sean Cisterna and Filipe Masetti Leite got together later in life to document the latter’s journey from Canada to Brazil entirely on horseback. The film, The Long Rider, opens at the Dances With Films film festival on Thursday.
How did this project come about? I imagine you were familiar with Filipe?
I was very familiar with Filipe’s story because we went to the same high school. I’m a few years older than him, but our former drama teacher introduced us in 2005, so I’ve known Filipe for almost 20 years. So when he undertook this journey, I followed it in real time knowing one day it would make for an incredible story…if he lived to tell the tale.
And what was the general incentive?
We actually had plans to do a narrative feature film based on Filipe’s book “Long Ride Home”. I optioned the material and wrote the screenplay, and it was to be an international coproduction between Canada-Mexico-Brazil. Then along comes 2020 and borders were shut down and productions were halted due to the pandemic, and an expansive international coproduction wasn’t possible. Then Filipe said, “well, I’ve got all this footage that I shot on my journey – why don’t we do a documentary first?” And since we had nothing else to do during those early days of the pandemic, we started to piece together everything we needed for our documentary. Now we can use The Long Rider as a tool to help greenlight the narrative version. It’s the ultimate proof of concept.
Was the doc scripted? Or did you organically just roll as it came?
It’s 100% organic, capturing the ups and the downs. Filipe’s life wasn’t scripted, so there was no way the doc could have been scripted. The frightening thing about Filipe’s journey is that he doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep every night or where his next meal might be and depends upon the kindness of strangers along his route from Canada to Brazil, and later beyond. What you will experience in The Long Rider is basically a video diary, since Filipe recorded everything himself.
Is there anything Filipe didn’t want in the film?
You have to know that when you spend as much time with horses as Filipe does, they become his family. The horses in the film – Frenchie, Bruiser and Dude – are like his kids. So when his kids are hurt, it’s like seeing your child hurt. Although some parts of the doc make him uncomfortable to the point he has to leave the theatre when we screen at festivals, Filipe trusted me to tell the story, and understands that they’re important pieces to the overall emotional experience for the audience.
Anyone refuse to take part? Or did you have open access to anything and everything?
We only used footage where people had signed release forms and given their consent. There are, let’s say, very powerful people captured on camera in the doc who actually come to Filipe’s aid during border crossings, but for our safety, we’ve blurred their faces.
Anyone you’d have liked to have included but didn’t?
Filipe tells a powerful story in his book “Long Ride Home” of how the mayor of a small Mexican town hosted a party for Filipe and his father one evening. The mayor liked to drink with his political buddies, and at one point offers Filipe a “gift” – a 16 year old girl. The two were escorted to a room together. The young girl told Filipe that she does this for money, though her parents think she works at a factory. By the end of their conversation, Filipe asks the girl to mess up her hair and the two walked out of the room together, not wanting to cause a scene with the drunken mayor. I would have loved to have that conversation captured on film, but it wasn’t.
What do you think the chances of a follow-up in a couple of years are? See where Filipe is now?
My hope, if everything works out, is that we’ll be in production or post production on the narrative version of this doc by then. We have a compelling script written, some cast attached, and now we’re looking for partners interested in going on this journey with us.
Filipe is currently in Canada, writing his third book. In July, he’ll be at the Calgary Stampede, riding alongside Kevin Costner as the stampede’s parade marshals.
See star Filipe Leite arrive at the Chinese Theatres on horseback, escorted by the famous Compton Cowboys, Thursday June 16th 6:30pm PT!
Backed by the City of Los Angeles, Felipe will ride down Hollywood Boulevard ahead of the 7pm premiere screening of his acclaimed film THE LONG RIDER at Dances With Films.
WHO:Filipe Leite,accompanied by The Compton Cowboys
WHEN:Thursday 16th June,2022 at 6:30pm PT
WHERE:Chinese Theaters,Hollywood Blvd,Hollywood