The Ride

I capped off my TFF2016 experience the way I tipped it off (eh, that phrasing sounded cooler in my head, but I’m gonna keep it) — with a documentary. The Ride documents the Lakota Sioux’s pilgrimage-esque trek through the South Dakota Badlands. The goal of the journey is to honor their ancestors, who were killed at Wounded Knee, and to connect with past cultural traditions, like riding on horseback.

The scenery is beautiful, and beautifully shot, but the film itself is pretty disjointed, which is such a shame. I really admire the scope of this project, especially because the Lakota seemed so hesitant to reveal the importance of the journey on camera. Ultimately, though, I think that hesitance hurt the finished product.

The director, Stephanie Gillard, wasn’t able to really pull information out of her subjects. There were some poignant moments, but the movie felt wholly quiet, secretive, mysterious, and not in an intriguing way. Investing this much time in making and watching it, you want to hear real revelations. You want to see real emotions. You want to feel real pain.

I wonder if the language barrier had anything to do with it; the director is French, and it seemed like the (English) subtitles didn’t come close to capturing what was being said. And, of course, with every documentary, most of the footage that exists goes unseen. I’d be curious to know how and why she made her editing decisions, because so many scenes felt jumpy, as if they excluded the most important parts.

I also wonder if she was rushed to finish the film by a certain deadline — its subjects deserve far more time in the spotlight, and she deserves far more time to tell their story.