Born from a scarred £350 thoroughbred mare and an old stallion, raised on a slagheap allotment in South Wales, the charismatic subject of the documentary "Dark Horse" is a handsome fellow with a distinctive white blaze named Dream Alliance. Given life by Jan Vokes, a barmaid and cleaner at a local grocery store, this unlikely racehorse first captured the hearts of his owners --- then an entire nation.
Vokes, who bred whippets and racing pigeons, set her sights on breeding a racehorse. She and her husband Brian knew they couldn't afford to do this alone, so they offered the opportunity to "own" a racehorse to the residents of their little village, Cefn Fforest, at £10 a week to cover his maintenance costs.
Director Louise Osmond does a marvelous job, along with her producer Judith Dawson and director of photography Benjamin Kracun, weaving the charming stories of this 23 member syndicate with what was left of the history of Dream Alliance's racing career, including snippets of old home movies, newspaper clippings and worn photographs. Osmond describes the experience as "a wonderful mash of film genres, part classic British Billy Elliot/Full Monty underdog tale, part Lavender Hill Mob Ealing comedy caper, plus of course Rocky --- with a horse."
Vokes is the driving force behind this remarkable idea, but Dream Alliance is the star --- no doubt about it. Looked down upon by the racing elite because of his questionable heritage, this strong-willed animal proves them all wrong, even when he sustains a life-threatening injury. But his faithful owners are not abashed --- they spend their only winnings to give him back his life. And Dream Alliance does his best to reward them for their belief in him.
:"Dark Horse" is a prime example of why David and I love films --- all types of films. Osmond, who knew nothing about
horses and racing, but saw the potential in these true events, has given moviegoers a delightful and inspirational experience we may have otherwise missed.
Opinion: See It Now!
Veteran documentary filmmaker Louise Osmond won the Audience Award at Sundance last year for her latest effort, "Dark Horse". It was also nominated for the festival's Grand Jury Prize, and it's easy to see why.
Jan Vokes, a local barmaid in a poor village in Wales, organizes a group of locals in 2000 who pool their money to breed a racehorse. The group of 23 each invests about 180 pounds ($300) for a mare they breed with an ageing stallion. Their foal is born the next year.
Named Dream Alliance after the group's nickname, the horse wins a race, much to everyone's surprise, and goes on to make national headlines in Great Britain after recovering from a life-threatening injury. This is truly a movie for the whole family.
"Dark Horse" is a touching story on many levels. The syndicate that Jan started was initially a money-making proposition. And the locals who participated did make a small return on their investment.
But the love they all felt for this courageous animal, and the camaraderie that developed within the group of friends, could never be measured in pounds and pence.
Opinion: See It Now!