Mar 6, 2013 6:03 PM by MELISSA CANONE
A film by University of Louisiana at Lafayette faculty member Conni Castille, T-Galop: A Louisiana Horse Story, is the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities' Documentary Film of the Year.
Each year, the LEH selects a documentary film that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana documentary filmmakers.
"It's chosen on the basis of its representation of the humanities, the history and culture of the state and the quality of the film itself," said Brian Boyles, director of Public Relations and Programs for LEH.
T-Galop, which is pronounced TEE-gah-low, refers to a horse moving at a slow gallop or canter.
Castille's film traces the history of Louisiana's equine connections from the colonial period to the present day, paying special attention to traditions surrounding horses in the Cajun and Creole cultures. It features sulky races, Creole trail rides and Le Tournoi de la Ville Platte, a contest inspired by medieval jousting.
Castille explores the inclusion of horses in traditional rural Mardi Gras celebrations, where masked riders go from house to house, begging for ingredients - including live chickens - to make a gumbo.
The film also includes an interview with Calvin Borel, the only jockey in history to win three consecutive Kentucky Derby races. A native of Catahoula, La., Borel began his career when he was just 11, riding on Louisiana's bush tracks, unsanctioned, rough-and-tumble tracks that once dotted the Southwest Louisiana countryside.
Castille wrote, directed and produced the film. A UL Lafayette graduate, she is assistant director of the University's Center for Moving Image Arts and an instructor who teaches English and film studies.
The film takes its name from a Cajun song, 'Tit Galop Pour Mamou, written and recorded by Dewey Balfa and released in 1965. It tells the story of a rider who sells his mule and wagon to buy treats for the children and elders in the small town of Mamou, La.
Dr. Michael Martin, director of UL Lafayette's Center for Louisiana Studies, called the film "remarkable for its blending of archival and contemporary footage to show the complexities of horse culture in the region."
T-Galop also earned the Louisiana Feature Film Prize at the 2012 New Orleans Film Festival.
Castille will receive the award on Saturday, April 6, at a luncheon at Houmas House Plantation in Darrow, La., near Baton Rouge.
Each year, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities honors Louisianians who have made outstanding contributions to the study and understanding of the humanities.
The LEH is the Louisiana affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.