Thursday, August 30, 2012

Away To Me - The Film

I was privileged to see a screening tonight of Andrew Hadra's sheepdog documentary, Away To Me.  We were invited to see it at Robert Redford's Sundance resort about 20 minutes from Soldier Hollow.  After a delicious dinner at the Foundry Grill in the resort, we saw the movie in a screening room.  Away To Me was filmed primarily at last year's Soldier Hollow and I had talked to the director several times about the picture so I was eager to see what it had developed into.  The opening of the film is an early black and white British newsreel about a sheepdog trial.  It's entertaining from a handler's point of view to watch the kneeling competitor direct his dog to put sheep in a pen that he was standing a few feet away from - not holding on to a pen rope.  In an interview, the handler  turns out to be the great Alex Miller.
The film then turns to modern day.
It follows three sheepdog handlers from three different countries to their destination at the Soldier Hollow Classic Trial at Midway, UT.  Although this movie is about sheepdog handlers, it's not really about the dogs.  It is more about these three people from different places who's lives are shaped by their love of herding.  Amanda Milliken from Ontario, Canada is eccentric and humorous at her beautiful farm.  There is no doubt that Amanda's dogs are well loved and the center of her life.  Faansie Basson from South Africa, is composed and noble as he speaks about his daily work that is dependent upon his dogs.  The heart of the film is Hailey Howard, from Northern California.  Hailey's class and beauty are accented by the great vistas of the mountains and high desert of her home.  We feel like we are her best friend as she shyly tells us of her courtship by her cowboy fiance. In the background of these characters is their bond with their dogs and it's this that brings them all together.
The film has some beautiful images of the world that these handlers live in with a strong Western thread.  The climax of the film is at the Soldier Hollow trial and we are led along with their runs by the great narration of Ray Crabtree as he explains it for the spectators at the trial.
I didn't see anything in this film that a handler would think was a bad representation of our sport and the three handlers were presented with dignity and even though I knew each one of them, they felt like characters in a story that I was enjoying following.
The director, Andrew Hadra is hoping to take this film to some of the big film festivals around the world and then it will be available for you and me to buy on DVD or (hopefully) rent on Net Flix.
Have patience, but keep checking the website for screenings near you or instructions on how to get a DVD of this enjoyable film!

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