Mules have not exactly been red-carpet material, but that may change next week when “Mule Days: The Documentary” premiers in Bishop during the annual hee-haw weekend.
Filmed and edited over the course of four years, the project is a labor of love from a group of young Los Angeles filmmakers, said Director Joseph Peeler.
He and his crew began filming Bishop’s annual Memorial Day celebration in 2008 and returned subsequent years to shoot additional footage. The movie is entirely self-financed, he said.
Whether you’ve seen Bishop Mule Days from afar, as a resident or a fan, the documentary seeks to give viewers a new appreciation for the challenges facing those who participate each year.
The movie focuses on three Mule People at pivotal points in their lives. Mike Toberer, a packer facing potentially devastating economic times, tries to pass on his century-old way of life to his son. Tucker Slender, a retired cowboy who creates a new life for himself as his friends fade away.
Then there is Dale Woodard, a chicken-loving rodeo clown, who puts his life as an absent father in perspective. Intertwined with these stories are a thousand other glimpses of life within the rodeo arena and a kaleidoscope of characters that make the Bishop Mule Days celebration what it is today.
“Mule Days: The Documentary” has been submitted to a number of prestigious national and international film festivals, including screenings in Amsterdam, London and Germany. Viewings at the Bishop Twin Theaters are free with a recommended donation of $5.
All funds raised will be re-invested into the promotion and distribution of the film in an effort to raise awareness of Bishop Mule Days, Peeler said. The DVD of the documentary will be on sale for $15, as well as other merchandise.
Director and Editor Joseph Peeler, who spent every Memorial Day weekend of his childhood in Bishop, said, “Bishop’s community has been so good to us already, and we hope that this year we can return the favor. We’ve already submitted to a number of film festivals, and we hope to continue submitting and hopefully screen at many others.
“All of this costs money, though, and this year we are trying to raise funds to push on with the movie, get the film seen, and show the world how much excitement and humanity can be found in a celebration like Bishop Mule Days.”
“We hope that by getting ‘Mule Days: The Documentary’ out to these festivals, and perhaps TV stations as well, that we can get the word out about Mule Days and all of its charm and characters,” Peeler said.
“I personally would love nothing more than to have people from around the world visit Mule Days years from now solely because they saw the movie. That would be amazing.”
There will be a free Screening of “Mule Days: The Documentary” at the Bishop Twin Theater on Saturday, May 26, immediately following the Mule Days Parade.
In addition, there will be two showings, Sunday, May 27, at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.