The first thing the eye is drawn to in Douglas Morrione’s amazing film “Everything in the Song is True” is the startling beauty of the great American countryside that the young writer/director, a Winslow native, has painted of the plains, the mountains, arroyos and canyons. It’s a panorama that even the great Frederic Remington would have envied.

You can hear the wind, the crush of stone beneath the hooves of horses, blending with the music of the guitars and voices, the music of the names, San Miguel, Lubbock, El Paso, Las Vegas, New Mexico.

You almost expect that any moment Jimmy Stewart, Tommy Lee Jones and Bob Duval will ride into focus.

“Everything” is technically a documentary, but before long it’s clear that this is film, clear and sweet, as real and evocative as any Sam Peckinpah or John Ford film. It has taste and texture. It is art.

We meet the new American cowboys here, men who do real things with horses, such as actually shoeing them, grooming and loving them, as the indispensable comrades they are.

This week at the 19th annual Maine International Film Festival, I met Morrione, the young man from Winslow, of all places, who came to town and introduced me to a few of the remaining genuine cowboys who do amazing things with a guitar, rope and horse sense.

Morrione, a son of Maine, and Nick Goldfarb, of New York, have put together a spectacular documentary.

“Everything in the Song is True” is about a group of modern American men who every year gather up on the Quinlan Ranch in the mountains near Chama, New Mexico, for a trail ride.

These are not just “weekend warriors” in a major photo op. This is nothing less than a posse of poets, song writers and guitar pluckers, as leathery as their saddles, as genuine as their Western accents, who for a piece of time step away from their daily lives, saddle up and ride back into time.

They are so real, these men, that without making an effort, they, by the grace of their talents and joy, take us with them.

Morrione came away from his travels with them with an incredible beautifully photographed feature-length documentary film about four iconic men and one woman, who, among a band of followers, have carved out a peaceful plateau of part-time pilgrims.

Our guide through the film is Gary McMahan, who narrates and is a renowned cowboy singer and poet, comic and champion yodeler. McMahan, a native of Greeley, Colorado, is the real thing.

He has made his living from cowboy-ing to guiding and performing. Gary can brand, calve, rope, ride broncs, fence, hay, shoe horses, pack and drive teams better than any movie Westerner.

We meet Brice Chapman, one of the world’s most talented trick ropers and horse trainers, and a truly amazing iron sculptor who creates incredible art.

We’re introduced to Yvonne Hollenbeck, a fourth-generation rancher, award-winning poet and quilt maker, who looks as though she stepped out of John Ford’s “The Searchers.”

Spanning the wide open spaces from Colorado to New Mexico to Texas and the Dakotas, filmmaker Morrione “rode shotgun” with these characters for nearly two years to capture the sights and songs that are unique to the American experience. The result is one of the most beautifully filmed documentaries ever made about the real modern West and its working balladeers.

“Everything in the Song is True” is everything that’s good about America, and young American filmmakers like Morrione, a son of Maine who rediscovered the West.

J.P. Devine, a Waterville writer, is a former stage and screen actor.


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