Held annually in New York City, the EQUUS Film Festival highlights and awards the diverse and creative efforts of those who artistically pay homage to the horse. The festival took place Nov. 17-19 this year, and Chattanooga based documentary When the Dust Settles not only made its debut but also took home the “Best Feature Length Documentary” award.
Shot and directed by Glenn Sweitzer and Dave Molesworth, the 45 minute film shows the parallel struggles and triumphs of mustangs and traditionally underserved girls. Recognized nationally as a “living symbol of the historic and pioneer spirit”, the wild American mustang has preserved through persecution, starvation, abuse, neglect, natural disasters, and predators. It is this resilience, the mustang’s spirit and beauty, and her father’s legacy that inspired the film’s Executive Producer, Dr. Sue Anne Wells to establish Mustang Leadership Partners to help sustain and preserve the breed.
Realizing the leadership lessons that mustangs can provide, Dr. Wells launched an equestrian program in 2009 at the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy, Tennessee’s first all-girls public charter school, which she helped co-found. CGLA serves primarily minority girls from traditionally underserved neighborhoods in grades 6-12 and most have never been around a horse prior to starting the program. Meeting two hours each week through the school year, the MLP program exposes girls to a variety of hands-on experiences grounded in science, life skills, and leadership development. The journey of these students- and horses- is spotlighted in When the Dust Settles.
Dr. Wells attended the festival and was accompanied by four CGLA students, one faculty member, and CGLA’s Executive Director, Dr. Elaine Swafford.