Movie Review: The Long Rider Goes the Distance


Documentary follows man who trekked from Calgary to Sao Paulo

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You can fly from Calgary to Sao Paulo in about 14 hours. Or you can do what Felipe Masetti Leite did, and ride a horse. It took him two years, but it’s a hell of a story.

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Leite was born in Brazil but moved to Canada with his parents when he was nine years old. In Canadian director Sean Cisterna’s new film, we watch as Leite, inspired by Aimé Félix Tschiffely’s solo trip from Argentina to New York in 1925, decides to take a similar trip south. In equestrian circles, any trip of 1,000 miles or more constitutes a “long ride”. This one certainly qualifies.

Leite first goes through months of training and planning, though he decides to wonder how to get through the Panama Canal until he gets there. It almost proves his undoing – just like traffic accidents, horse colic, sketchy border guards, extreme weather and this time a jealous hotel owner looked like he was about to try and kill him.

To be clear, our man isn’t trying to recreate the trip like Tschiffely did. He is happy to take any help offered to him, even to the point of swapping horses (he has one to ride, one for his pack) when one is injured. And while he doesn’t want to hang out with drug dealers, he learns that sometimes you have to bend your morals to the current situation.

I didn’t realize when I started watching this movie that Leite’s long ride actually took place nearly a decade ago. There’s an extended postscript to catch us up on what happened after that initial journey, which gives the film a sprint-to-the-end quality that doesn’t match the rest of its pacing. But it’s still an inspiring and moving story, and much more fun than hearing about someone’s problems at the airport.

The Long Rider opens June 24 in Toronto and July 1 in Calgary, with more cities to follow. Cisterna and Leite plan to attend screenings at Cineplex Yonge/Dundas at 7 p.m. on June 26 and 29.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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