Sheila Varian Film Documentary Winner at 2016 Equus Film Festival

“The First of Many” featuring Major Mac V and Lester Buckley Awarded at 2016 Equus Film Festival

Evie and Angela Alvarez, General Manager of Varian Arabians.

Evie Tubbs Sweeney and Angela Alvarez, General Manager of Varian Arabians

2 December 2016, Arroyo Grande, Colorado ~ The Equus Film Festival, now in its third year, took place 17-20 November 2016 at the Village East Cinema in New York City’s theatre district. The festival featured over 250 entries in both film and literature and presented awards in over 80 categories.

“V: The Legacy of Sheila Varian,” a full-length documentary on the life of Sheila Varian, received semi-finalist honors in the documentary category.

The First of Many featuring Major Mac V and Lester Buckley was named the Official Short Equestrian Film Selection of the festival.

It was very emotional,” said Evie Tubbs Sweeney, producer of both films, “because it immediately hit us that this would have been how Sheila preferred it, with the film about her horse winning over the film about her.

The First of Many” was a film Varian herself set in motion the final week of her life. She wanted to see her sixth generation stallion, Major Mac V, ridden not in an arena but out on a ranch. Her good friend, Lester Buckley, flew in from Kentucky to ride the stallion and fulfill her wish; General manager Angela Alvarez filmed the ride; Brandon Bessey photographed. Varian watched the footage of her stallion repeatedly in her living room that week. She requested that Tubbs Sweeney publish it with narration from Lester, completely unaltered to the version she herself watched. The film was finished within a month of her death, and it has been declared a “magical 25 minutes of horsemanship and life.”

Having this film be recognized by a film festival would have made Sheila very, very proud,” said Alvarez. “It was an honor to receive it for her.

The festival continued recognition of Sheila Varian with a new category called the “$2,500 Sheila Varian Award,” which honors films that inspire humanity through horses. The award, launched and sponsored by Alice Pennels, was moved to create the category after the inspiration she found watching “V: The Legacy of Sheila Varian.”

The recipient of the Sheila Varian Film Award was “Finding Fortune” produced by up-and-coming filmmaker Kayli Fortun. Aptly, the film is about an Arabian mare who was mistakenly sent to a slaughterhouse. Fortun, an Arabian horse enthusiast who has found inspiration to pursue her dreams through Varian, is a recent graduate of Mount St. Mary’s University in its MFA program. “Finding Fortune” was her first major post-graduation project.

Winning Best Student Feature Film was so exciting,” said Fortun. “But even more amazing was being the recipient of the Sheila Varian Award. Sheila’s vision, influence and devotion to the Arabian world is undeniable, and her legacy will live on forever. I hope the film would have made her proud!

Lisa Diersen, founder and director of the Equus Film Festival, expressed admiration of Varian.

The Arabian horse has always had a ‘hoof’ in the Equus Film Festival,” said Diersen. “But this year was extra special with ‘V: The Legacy of Sheila Varian’ honored as a semi-finalist in the Full Length Documentary category; ‘The First of Many’ winning the Equstrian Short Film category; and the inaugural $2,500 Sheila Varian Award that ensures Sheila’s legacy will be felt not just this year, but every year at the Equus Film Festival.”

The festival was created to highlight and award the diverse and creative efforts of those who artistically pay homage to the horse. The festival empowers storytellers to show the rich history and diverse tapestry of horses in human culture through equestrian content.

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