Discovering The Hill: The Real Cowboys of South Central LA
Cowboys have a majestic nature, which is why there is such a timelessness to Hollywood Westerns. When considering the genre, we immediately think of John Wayne and James Garner in classic films like The Great Escape and The Alamo. Brown-hued men like Sidney Poitier in Buck and the Preacher are hardly ever put forth as examples. With his documentary Fire on the Hill director, Brett Fallentine pulls the curtain back on the history and heritage of Black cowboys.
Fire on the Hill paints a stunning portrait of three modern-day Black Cowboys in South Los Angeles —struggling to hold on to the legacy of riding culture in the area while juggling their personal lives and responsibilities. The Hill was the area’s longest-operating stables which birthed Charles Sampson, the first Black rodeo world champion– and has kept generations of Black men off the streets. We chatted with Fallentine about his Los Angeles Film Festival winning doc —the legacy of Black equestrians and telling an authentic story.
“I was speaking to a friend who is a social worker in South L.A., and she mentioned off-hand that every time she was down there, she would see these guys riding around on horseback in the streets,” Fallentine revealed about discovering The Hill. “I was taken by that image, and I wanted to check it out myself. When I got there, I found horse manure. It became this trail that led to The Hill. As soon as I found The Hill, I jumped out with my camera, and I asked one of the older guys, Ray, if I could ask him a few questions. It just grew from there. Ray introduced me to Ghuan Featherstone —and Ghaun invited me out on a ride with him. I started to get to know these cowboys more and more. I was so curious about what this culture was, and where it came from —why it was in South L.A. However, about six months into it —The Hill caught on fire.”
Continue reading at Violet Summer Zine.