Crossing borders

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Ryerson graduate Filipe Leite will be travelling 16,000 km on horseback, documenting his way through 12 countries over two years. Victoria Stunt reports

When Filipe Leite was a young boy, he would lie in bed and imagine the epic tale his father would recite to him. It was of a Swiss school teacher named Aime Tschiff ely who in 1925, rode two horses from Buenos Aires to New York.

“Let fools laugh; wise men dare and win,” Tschiff ely said.

Now 25, Leite is sett ing out on his own equestrian journey this July. The Ryerson journalism graduate will ride two horses from Calgary to his hometown near Sao Paulo, Brazil. It’s a 16,000 km expedition that was a dream of his father’s.

Leite who is a cinematographer and journalist, will document stories from the communities he visits. He says the goal of the project, “Journey America,” is to connect and inspire people through storytelling.

Leite — whose first name means lover of horses — grew up in Brazil, where he says there’s a harsh diff erence between classes. Some people own private jets and condos in Miami, while others can’t even aff ord food.

As a journalist, this is something he always has in the back of his mind.

“I want to try to show the diff erence between people who have, and people who have not, and at the same time how similar they all are,” says Leite. “Whether you have 30 billion dollars in your bank, or you have nothing, we all strive for the same thing. We want to love, and be loved.”

He thinks riding two horses through 12 countries will get people to pay att ention to the stories he’ll share in his 120 minute documentary, mostly about how the drug war affects the entire continent.

Leite says he doesn’t have a set plan on sleeping anywhere, While he’s on his journey. He says that he doesn’t want to make plans because he doesn’t know what towns he’ll be visiting for sure yet.

He’s expecting to camp out and have people invite him into their homes. He’s also putt ing his own money into the project.

“I’m not gett ing paid to do this, I’m paying to do this.”

Leite says that riding a horse long distance is thought of as crazy even though it wasn’t too long ago we used horses as main means of transportation.

“It’s like I’m telling them I’m going to build a fucking state of the art rocketship and fl y to Mars,” he says.

Leite will spend about three weeks in June at a ranch in Calgary, taking a clinic on wilderness riding. There, he will meet his horses. The whole journey he says will be done with their health in mind.

“I’m doing this for human rights, and my horses are trekking for the rights they deserve.”

He’ll ride them for only 30 km a day, four-to-fi ve days a week.

“When you live with a horse for this long, it’s a friendship like no other,” he says. “The horses are going to be the true heroes. I’m just a guy with a fucking camera telling a story.”

He wants people to be able to go visit the horses in Brazil when the journey is done —he says they’ll be retired afterwards. Leite will have some connections in diff erent countries during his trip.

He’s trying to contact a veternarian in each country before he leaves so the horses can be checked to cross borders. But other than that, he’s trying to plan as litt le as possible.

Leite says the majority of the connections, “the most beautiful ones,” will be made along the way. “That’s why I’m going on this trip, to talk to people. The beauty of it is discovering humanity again,” says Leite.

He’ll need to ask people which roads to take, where to fi nd feed for his horses and where to fi nd a place to stay. He’ll also get information about community projects going on, so he can include them in the documentary.

Leite has some sponsors for the trip, one of which is helping him pick the horses, while another is supplying gear for the journey. But once he starts riding, he believes more sponsors will be interested in helping.

Leite says he’s going to keep tweeting throughout the journey, documenting and asking for support from big sponsors.

“I’m doing this because I believe in the size and the scope of the project,” Leite says.

His goal is to win an Oscar nomination for the documentary.

“We go against ourselves, and before we even leave we’ve already failed,” says Leite. “I don’t fail. If I say I’m going to do something, I’ll do it.”

The hardest part of the trip won’t be reaching the half way point or feeding the horses, it will be getting off the saddle and returning to a world of internet and cars. The documentary pilot, which gives a glimpse into what’s to come in Leite’s journey, along with more information is available at

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