Sundance 2013: ‘Roper’

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Directed by Ewan McNicol & Anna Sandilands

With HD capability spreading wider and wider the documentary short is becoming more and more prevalent, and most any fan of quality cinematography and the examination of unique pockets of humanity can be thankful for this. Still it is very easy, as I can confess, to focus on purportedly more substantiated feature length material despite the almost absurd level of accessibility afforded to these shorts by the internet. The Roper, like last year’s The Last Ice Merchant, makes me sit up and take notice. Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, no strangers to this rodeo (if you’ll forgive the unintended pun), have crafted a captivating 6 minutes centered around Kendrick, a young man of Lafayette, Louisianna pursuing his dream of roping calves in grander competitions. Not only is the roping world niche enough to compel on its own, Kendrick is a young black man in an old white man’s game – looked upon with skeptical eyes and met with closed doors along his enthusiastically chosen path, yet unfettered in the face of it all. A quick cavalcade of lovely shots and fascinating, oftentimes delightful character and world development that further enlightens us as to the human condition, the only downside to The Roper may actually be that it is a short, as it wraps up all too quickly after capturing both heart and mind. Does Kendrick feel empowered by adversity? Why does he love roping to begin with? Blame my blind gravitation toward features over shorts, but unlike the more complete The Last Ice Merchant, The Roper leaves me hoping it is a prototype being shopped for feature funding so McNicol and Sandilands may follow Kendrick to his seemingly inevitable grander stage.

Tom Stoup


Limited only by run time, and driven by innovation and experimentation, short films transcend the rules of conventional storytelling. From cutting-edge animation to the best in Native and documentary cinema, the Sundance Shorts Programs call out filmmaking’s most original imaginations.

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