L to R: Producer Peter Hawkins, Barb, Cristina, and Filipe’s wife
In April 2022, Publisher Barb Godwin and Creative Director Cristina Moore were invited to attend the Florida premiere of Filipe Leite’s The Long Rider at the SunScreen Film Festival in St. Petersburg. We had been quite moved just by the trailer and press kit from the production team earlier in the month, but our high expectations and anticipation weren’t just met, they were exceeded several times over. Our first collaborative article digs into the heartfelt reactions to this powerful, touching documentary.
BARB: When Cristina and I were invited to view The Long Rider documentary at the SunScreen Film Festival in St Petersburg, I was elated. Film festivals are nothing new to Cristina as they are part of her portfolio, but as for myself, it was something I was totally unfamiliar with; I was truly excited to be a part of the festival.
What was I expecting? Perhaps adventure and a story told by a very ambitious young man who spent years creating the scenario for this documentary. Someone who braved the elements and never quit when days, nights became unbearable.
So it was with great anticipation that we seated ourselves in the theater waiting for the saga to begin.
CRISTINA: I’ve been lucky enough to work with Central Florida Film Festival as their webmaster since 2018, but this was my first time at SunScreen – and my first time attending anything as a member of the press! It was also the first semi-normal thing I’d done after months of personal chaos and upheaval, and I was really looking forward to the opportunity for Barb and I to catch up and brainstorm during the 3 hour drive to St. Pete. We’ve always done our best thinking in person.
We arrived at the AMC Sundial 12, the fest’s host theater, with time to spare (even with a couple of bad navigational calls on my part), enjoyed a quick drink at a nearby restaurant, collected our passes, and settled in. The producer (Peter Hawkins) and director (Sean Cisterna) were making the rounds to thank audience members for taking the time to come see the documentary; we had a lovely chat with Peter that we promised to continue after the movie was done.
The lights went down. Our recliners went up. And for the next 90 minutes we – like the rest of the audience – were utterly in thrall. (Seeing our own CuChullaine O’Reilly onscreen was a treat, as 95% of our communication is done by email!)
BARB: My expectations were met…and beyond. Wow.
What I didn’t expect were the many other areas of life this documentary touched upon in addition to the adventure – romance, tragedy, compassion and passion.
The focus was not only Filipe as a long rider, but also the many people who crossed his path along the way and what they contributed to his journey.
The not so surprising difficulty of crossing borders due to governments and excruciating demands and technicalities. The various countries that he entered and exited, making his way across the map of the unknown. The different cultures and how they reacted and interacted with him as a rider and as a human being.
It also brought a realization of how ignorant we can be as a people regarding how the rest of the world lives…and a gladness that, no matter his origins, Filipe was well received.
It touched my heart and soul to know that complete strangers in a country with no obligation to Filipe, would share with him and his horses, providing not only nourishment and at times a place to lay his head, but a feeling of support and wellbeing.
CRISTINA: Through the lens of both my own personally chaotic last few months and the longer efforts Barb and I have put into bringing HRL to life from little more than an idea, the uncertainty and unpredictability of Filipe’s journey resonated deeply. So did his determination, and the goodness and kindness of the people he encountered. In a world where every news cycle seems to bring more and more for us to worry about, The Long Rider was deeply relatable…and pure comfort for the soul.
BARB: So like the entire audience, we were at times laughing and at times crying – but at no time were we disappointed in this film.
CRISTINA: Only that it ended, but even that was perfectly timed – 90 minutes was the perfect length to tell the story, tell it well, and leave the viewer with a sense of hope that the ride will go on.
BARB: And now that the ice has been broken, I plan to attend future film festivals – they are not only entertaining, but you participate in part of an industry not felt on the screen at home.
The Long Rider has won multiple film festival awards (including Best Documentary at SunScreen 2022) and is currently scheduled to be shown in India this summer at the Mumbai International Film Festival. HRL is also working with the production team to arrange another screening in Central Florida, but no details have been confirmed.
The Long Rider is produced by Cisterna’s Mythic Productions Inc in association with MoJo Global Arts and NC2 Media. It is executive produced by Peter Hawkins, Arnon Melo, Aeschylus Poulos, Sonya Di Rienzo and Filipe Masetti Leite.