Wild Horses (2017) won the Nijmegen Youth Award  last april at our festival. We spoke on the phone with Rory Alexander Stewart, the director of Wild Horses (2017), about his experience at Go Short International Short Film Festival, what sparked him to make Wild Horses (2017), horses and his admiration for Emma Curtis, who played the lead role in Wild Horses (2017).

Wild Horses (2017) tells the story about a teenage girl named Joan, played by Emma Curtis, who has been housebound with M.E. for most of her life, but whose slowly recovery and urge for independence is causing friction with her mother. Joan decides to leave the house in search of new experiences and a horse. A close friend of Rory, who just like Joan is dealing with M.E., inspired Rory to make Wild Horses (2017). Rory remembered his friend describing the overwhelming experience of simply taking the bus for the first time in years, and it was this particular feeling that sparked the beginning of Wild Horses (2017). Horses represent cinematically a somewhat cliché symbol of freedom, Rory explained to us. But the reality of horses namely is that they aren’t really free, they are controlled by humans.

In a way, but maybe that is just our own interpretation, you could say that just like horses, the character Joan doesn’t really seem to become as free as she wants herself to be. In the end it is the M.E. that prevents Joan from breaking totally free from her housebound condition, because quite quickly after Joan has left the house, she has lost all of her energy.

During the multiple Q&A’s Rory gave at Go Short the day after he won the Youth Award,  Rory jokingly went on a rant about how much he hated horses. It made more than a few people laugh in the cinema and it struck Rory;

Maybe people in The Netherlands hate horses as much as I do.

Horses are not only cold, they also remind Rory he said to me, of aliens with a grey head. But after watching Wild Horses (2017), you can’t help but wonder how much of this rant should be taken seriously. On the one hand one of the characters, an employee at a riding school, says about horses that “all they want are their f*cking apples and carrots.” During another moment Joan is lying in the grass looking at an elegant white horse, as if she had just seen the most beautiful creature allive. While this moment in the end is a dream and while Joan seems a little dissapointed when she finally sees real horses, you can’t deny the beautiful look of the film and also the frequently beautiful way in which the horses are captured. A true horse hater couldn’t have made Wild Horses (2017) the way Rory made this short.

Rory would surely agree with the rule “casting is 50 percent of directing“. Rory told us that he was for example very much in awe of Emma Curtis.

Emma was perfect for the role, because she’s very good seeming as if she has no idea what’s going on around her without seeming stupid.

And above all, playing a character that doesn’t move all too much, Rory admired how Emma was still able to express a lot doing very little.  Wild Horses (2017) was released online a few weeks ago after a quite succesful festival run that included a world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in the emerging talent category. Wild Horses (2017) was part of the student competition at Go Short last edition.

The Nijmegen Youth award Wild Horses (2017) won at our festival was awarded by a so-called MOVIEZONE jury existing of youngsters aged seventeen and eighteen. This jury came about in colaboration with MOVIEZONE, the youth platform of the dutch filminstitute EYE. Of the twenty-four diverse films seen by the jury, Wild Horses (2017) was awarded as being their favorite film. If you liked Wild Horses (2017), Rory would recommend you to watch Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher (1999). The film’s magical realism was of a huge inspiration for Rory. But first, enjoy Wild Horses (2017)!


Cast Emma Curtis, Emma Cater, Ainslie Henderson, Stephanie Compton

Written and directed by Rory Alexander Stewart

Produced by Rebecca M. Smith

Director of Photography Samira Oberberg