In a nutshell: Dark Horse: The Story of Dream Alliance is a gem of an underdog tale that happens to be a doco, but matches any fiction for dramatic tension, colourful characters, humour and emotional clout.
Dark Horse features: Dream Alliance + the good folk of the Welsh community of Cefn Fforest
Director: Louise Osmond
Writers: Louise Osmond
2015-16 Lotterywest Perth Film Festival season dates:
Somerville: 28 Dec-3 Jan, 8pm
Joondalup Pines: 5-10 Jan, 8pm
As you peruse the Perth International Film Festival guide for 2015/16 you might be inclined to overlook this doco about an Welsh village syndicate’s unlikely shot at glory in the “sport of kings”. That would be a mistake. In fact, I’ll lay London to a brick on this little beauty being the crowd-pleaser of the Festival. Using interviews and a skilfully managed blend of archival footage and convincing, unobtrusive reconstructions, director Louise Osmond has crafted a narrative every bit as absorbing, taut with dramatic tension and emotionally engaging as any fictional tale.
The background: a barmaid/cleaner in a tiny Welsh village decides out of the blue that she’s going to breed a racehorse, and without a clue about racing or breeding turns her outlandish vision into reality after persuading the locals (mostly patrons from her pub) to form a syndicate to finance the venture at a tenner per week.
Born of a dream and an alliance of mates, the horse is named Dream Alliance (appropriately abbreviated as “Dream”). Against all the odds he begins to show promise in his early racing. Then he breaks through for a fist-pumping first win… followed by another, and another!
But Dream specialises in steeplechases, a form of distance racing incorporating hedge and hurdle jumping that is notoriously taxing and dangerous for both horse and jockey (should be banned IMO, but that’s another post). The viewer is all too aware, even if the syndicate appears not to be, that disaster is ever lurking as a possibility, and this rachets up the tension.
If you think you can guess what happens, you’re right and wrong. This is a tale of twists and turns, of dreams come true and shattered, of a miracle, of temptation and greed, of unlikely events that changed a village and enriched the lives of the common folk within in ways they could not have imagined.
The villagers are such characters, their articulation of their story in the compelling rhythmic intonations of their Welsh accents from-the-heart, eloquent in its simplicity, and often poignant. They personify Dream in their own image – as a commoner horse, rough about the edges and out of place in the uppity world of the racing elite, but able to mix it with the best of them when push comes to shove.
This really is a little charmer, a classic underdog tale, wonderfully told, that will have you laughing, cheering (OK, inwardly) and swallowing down hard on that lump in your throat (gals, of course, will feel free to dab and sniffle). Do not miss, however you feel about horse racing.
Movie website: www.facebook.com/DarkHorseFilm/
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