Every year in Los Angeles, one of the most anticipated events in the African-American community revolves around The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo celebrates and honors and highlights Black Cowboys and Cowgirls and their contributions to building the west. Being completely obsessed over Black Cowboys in a rural setting, I literally was salivating at the prospect of screening BULL.
Centering around 14-year-old Kris (Amber Havard), who, after trashing her neighbor’s house in a fit of youthful defiance, seems destined to follow in her mother’s footsteps to the state penitentiary. In exchange for being sent to juvie, she is forced to help Abe Turner (Rob Morgan), an ex-bull rider scraping by on the Texas rodeo circuit, with errands at home and at his work. Hanging with Abe, she discovers a passion for bull riding in hopes that by mastering the art she can get her family out of poverty. Meanwhile, Abe struggles with aging out of the only life he has ever known. Together, Kris and Abe forge an unexpected alliance and unexpectedly assist one another with eyeing new possibilities and hope for the future before it’s too late.
Directed and written by Annie Silverstein, it’s in the most quiet of moments we recognize the pain and desperation of our lead characters beautifully and subtly portrayed by Rob Morgan and Amber Havard. It takes a minute to get to the meat of this film, but once you do, you are in hook, line and sinker. Silverstein’s master manipulation of music and close-ups while bringing the volume down on the action are heart-stopping. As well as, the choice to make those moments of introspection and re-discovery of the characters as dark and shaded as possible speaks volumes thanks to cinematographer Shabier Kirchner.
It’s like watching The Karate Kid, but from a rodeo perspective. Judge for yourself as SXSW winner BULL rides into VOD on May 1st.