Film Reviews: “Long Game” and “The Cowboy and the Queen”

Question and answer with the cast of "The Cowboy and the Queen" at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (Photo: Jackie Spafford)

The Cowboy and the Queen
Directed by Andrea Nevins
85 min – United States

This very moving documentary tells the incredible life story of Monty Roberts, aka “the Man who Listens to Horses.”

Born in 1936 in Salinas, he was riding horses as soon as he could walk, and grew up around the rodeo. He showed a gift for ‘breaking’ horses without violence at an early age, but this attracted scorn from other trainers. It also brought the wrong kind of attention from his abusive father, who was determined to ‘break’ him. Fortunately, he had the guidance of a kind nun at his school who helped him avoid conflict with his father and also become aware of the wrong tendencies in himself.

Fast forward several years, and he has a wife and three children, and a training facility in the Santa Ynez Valley (not without many professional ups and downs along the way). His non-violent horse training methodology has continued to gain attention (and skeptics), and eventually reaches Queen Elizabeth the II in the late 1980s. She has a keen interest in non-violent training for her own horses, and invites Monty to come to Windsor Castle and demonstrate his technique. It proves a great success and also marks the beginning of a 30-year friendship.

Now in his 90s, his training facility is still going strong with his oldest daughter, Debbie, running much of the business. Monty, however, expanded his gentle technique to work with first responders and others with PTSD, and has had great results. He is a remarkable man who has led a remarkable life, and is keenly aware of the many gifts he’s been given. He attended both screenings of the film and is still a very lively storyteller.

The Long Game
Directed by Jace Anderson
86 min – United States
World Premiere

What a delight to see a well-crafted modern film noir. Based on a short story by Janet Fitch (White Oleander), it tells the story of a young wanna-be actor from Nebraska trying to make her way in Hollywood, and rapidly becoming very jaded. One night while waitressing she meets a curious fellow who piques her interest (Jackie Earle Haley), and who lures her into a plan that gets increasingly more complex as the story unfolds. He ostensibly wants her help in robbing aging actress Mariah McKay (the excellent Kathleen Turner), but that gets a little more complicated. Like all good noir stories, it seems like it’s going in one direction but then takes a few unexpected twists. The best part is watching Kathleen Turner chew up the scenery with her trademark husky voice. The film weaves aspects of her actual life and career into the story, including using her real Vanity Fair magazine cover from the 1980s, and the dress she wore for that photo.

It’s a very satisfying and fun story, with some great performances. Hopefully it will be picked up for theatrical release or screening, as it deserves an audience.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Learn more at

Jackie Spafford

Written by Jackie Spafford

Jackie Spafford is an independent film consultant and contributes film reviews for

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