Equus Film Festival in Tryon

Into the Spotlight, The Journey of an Equine Theater Horse

At the third Tryon International Film Festival this month, horses will quite literally be prancing in the streets. Six equine performers and their trainers, coming from their home in Chicago, will join hundreds of local film lovers and dozens of visiting filmmakers from as far away as Nepal to celebrate the weekend-long international film festival.

The equine team are the stars of Into the Spotlight, The Journey of an Equine Theater Horse, a remarkable documentary made by champion rider and head trainer Yvonne Barteau of KYB Dressage. It’s an emotional portrait of horses, some of them rescued, whose lives are transformed by becoming entertainers. Adorned in flowing costuming that accentuates their classic grace and power, these magnificent animals create arena magic.

The heart of the horses’ performance is the ancient art of dressage, in which horse and rider perform a delicately choreographed series of movements. It’s the ballet of equine sports. Horse folks in Tryon know dressage because it’s an essential part of the activities at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. (The visiting equine team will perform at the Center’s seasonal Saturday Night Lights event.)

Last year, film-festival co-founders Kirk Gollwitzer and Beau Menetre decided to dedicate the 2017 season to the “respect and dignity of the horse,” recognizing Tryon’s historic (and still expanding) equestrian scene. Soon after, Lisa Diersen, director of the Equus Film Festival in NYC, called to request that her festival films be included. She and her team picked an assemblage of short films, documentaries, and two feature films: A Sunday Horse (starring William Shatner, Linda Hamilton, and Ving Rhames); and Three Days in August, with Meg Foster, Mariette Hartley, and Barry Bostwick.

Into the Spotlight, with its touching story and its appeal for help to save unwanted horses, was chosen to harness the Friday-night gala. All the equine films will be shown at The Tryon Theatre. The parade of horses down Trade Street marks another milestone in the original big dream of the local festival’s founders. Both Gollwitzer and Menetre, channeling their inner P.T. Barnum, wanted the festival to “involve the entire town, not just film lovers.” To that end, the town will be festooned with festival banners, related gatherings are taking place all over town, and the commencement of festivities will even include a dove release.

But beyond all the horse-themed pageantry, the festival includes 60 films in other categories. These films come from countries all over the world, including a second-time entry from Iran. For the third year, festival favorite Nepalese filmmaker Nischal Poudyal has a work in competition and will be in attendance. “Tryon was the inception of my international filmmaking journey,” he recently said. “[The town] will remain with me for the rest of my life.”

The Tryon International Film Festival runs Friday, October 27 through Sunday, October 29 at five venues: the Tryon Theatre (45 South Trade St.), two screening rooms in the Tryon Fine Arts Center (34 Melrose Ave.), the newly restored Tryon Depot (22 Depot St.), and a new venue, the Carri Bass Photography Studio (25 South Trade St.). See tryoninternationalfilmfestival.com for a film and venue schedule and ticket information.

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