Synopsis: This is the story of mankind’s attempt to bring back a horse from the dead. Tarpan roamed in wild herds across Europe for millennia, running through the dreams of our ancient ancestors and onto prehistoric cave walls. The film takes us on a journey of discovery, illuminating the dark past of the hunting lodges of Europe, miraculous scientific coincidence and the chilling efforts of the genetic breeders of the past. World Wars and doomed attempts to re-engineer the horse left a hopeless situation. Finally a group in Bulgaria brought a herd of modern Tarpan to the mountains of Eastern Europe. Here the horse faces a whole new challenge, struggling to become wild again and finding a way back to their ancient selves.
Sophie Dia Pegrum
As passionate filmmakers, storytellers and great lifelong admirers of the horse, creating this film has been a unique labor of love. For us, the connection between the human and the horse has always been inherently interesting—an almost mythical bond in which horses allow us a relationship, carrying us forth, imbuing us with their power as if we had wings. That union is larger than life and inspires us in our work, to always strive to capture that magic on film. The horse and the moving image are a match made in heaven — their beauty, power, movement, grace and bravery—no other creature is so tailor-made for the alchemy that is filmmaking.
After our work creating our first documentary feature Path to Glory: The Rise & Rise of the Polish Arabian Horse, we knew there was much in the equine world that was untapped. We were inspired to create an ongoing series of documentary films that explores truly rare equine breeds and their related cultures around the world. Our fervent underlying belief that the history of man is the history of the horse, coupled with our deep passion for creating cinematically beautiful and emotional stories drove us to create Of Gods And Kings, the first of our Horsefly Films Rare Equine Trust Film Library. Now we are proud to unveil the second in the series, TARPAN: Repainting An Ancient Picture. The horse is a reminder of man’s connection to loftier nature. What happens when the last of a breed disappears? Man can destroy or create even beyond human imagination. It seems preservation is a harder skill. This story is uniquely significant and traces man’s attempt to right an ancient wrong. Our passion for this story multiplied as our film grew and we connected to those involved in rewilding this breed. Our most fervent hope as filmmakers and horsewomen is to share this utterly unique horse with the world. To have audiences respond with a desire to get involved in rare equine preservation is the greatest achievement this film could have. We have formed our Horsefly Films Rare Equine Trust to oversee dissemination of a portion of the film’s proceeds to rare equine breeds around the world and to work with museums and other organizations in that endeavor.
We are without doubt, unabashedly enthralled with the horse and we wanted to give something back to them for all they have given the world. TARPAN: Repainting An Ancient Picture was born out of our intense desire to tell this unique story to people everywhere.
We hope you enjoy the film.
Jen Miller & Sophie Dia Pegrum
EQUUS Film Festival - USA - 2015
Best Short Documentary (Tarpan: Repainting An Ancient Picture)
"Tarpan" is a story that connects people with their successful devotion to bring back the wild horse and how the regenerated horse struggled to become wild again in Bulgaria, facing a more different predator than humans and to find their way back to their ancient selves. Jen Miller and Sophie Dia Pegrum not only present the history of this tale and the milestone on the introduction of the koniks as modern Tarpans, but show also a turning point in evolution of both horses, humans and nature, providing hope and in a way, also forgiveness."
- Colinda Vergeer, Regional Manager at Rewilding Europe
“I think you nailed it. This is really, really good. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical when I first heard that you would be examining the efforts to recreate the Tarpan, but what really impressed me with the film was how you handled the delicate question of whether humans can truly recreate a breed. In my opinion, you nailed it.
I would be proud to have this production shown at IMH.”
- Bill Cooke, Director, International Museum of the Horse
“To watch a Horsefly Film like TARPAN, Repainting An Ancient Picture, is akin to a private tour of the most interactive natural history exhibit in the world (and an equi-centric world, at that).
The last pure Tarpan was lost to the wild in the Ukraine in 1879; the last in captivity by 1918. What Jen Miller and Sophie Dia Pegrum, who produced and directed this half-hour documentary, shot on location in Poland and Bulgaria, have achieved is nothing short of historic. They have captured a ground floor effort to bring a breed back from the dead and reintroduce a “modern Tarpan” to its ancestral home.
In August 2014, a second herd of 35 Tarpan were released to Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains, and in October 2014, Horsefly Films released TARPAN, Repainting An Ancient Picture, the second in its Rare Equine Trust Film Library series of intelligent, exceptionally photographed and detailed films, narrated by James Herron, that introduce us to rare equine breeds and the often vanishing cultures around them.
TARPAN joins Horsefly Films’ Of Gods and Kings: The Skyros Horse, in a lovingly-crafted, ongoing “film atlas” about horses and humanity while reminding us that the fate of each of the world’s vanishing and fragile breeds remains ultimately entrusted with us.
Smitten. Again. As Usual. Great work.”
- L A Pomeroy, Equinista