Recommended Short: “The Roper” SXSW Documentary Shorts
You need to make time to see The Roper from directors Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands. It is a moving story of a young man who is passionate about his craft without regard to stereotypes.
Kendrick is a young, black calf roper grafting through the local, all-white rodeo circuits of the southern United States. Soft spoken and gentlemanly, roping is Kendrick’s singular focus, his ‘good addiction’. He practices long into the night and is happiest when he is on the road to a competition. Before each rodeo he prays for the safety of his horse and himself, and to win a check. Ever since he was a boy he has dreamed to one day making it to the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas. This is the beginning of that story.
Before reading the press info packet, I commented that this would make a great full length documentary and was pleased that one is in the works (see quoted text from Press packet below)
We went down to Lafayette very keen to find a story inside the popular Southern pastime
of trail riding. The longstanding, predominately white traditions are becoming increasingly
more African-American, and with some very curious cultural mash ups of zydeco and hip
hop, wrangler and Sean John – all on horseback.
We were out filming with some trailriders when Kendrick drove by, with horse trailer in tow
and asked his buddies what all we were up to. Fresh off of competing in calf-roping at a local
rodeo, he unloaded his horse and joined the ride. We were immediately struck by his easy
manner, shy and gentlemanly way, and a seemingly singular drive to become a great roper.
After spending some time with Kendrick and watching him in the practice ring we knew he
was his own story. He’ll tell you himself that he has a long road to go to being great, but his
heart and determination could win anyone over.
It wasn’t until we were filming at our first rodeo that we realized we were back in a very white
world, and Kendrick was the only black person in the entire place. A man asked if we were
filming because he’s a ‘chocolate cowboy’, a term we saw as far more of an affront than
Plans are in the works to expand the film, following Kendrick to getting professional
sponsorship, and hopefully meeting his dream of one day competing at the National Rodeo
Finals in Las Vegas.