Dylan (Charlie Plummer) is down on his luck. A 21-year-old construction worker working odd jobs in rural New Mexico, he struggles to bring home enough cash to support his family—let alone initiate the glorious and messy process of hacking into the barren, unexplored terrain of his own interests, hopes and dreams. Things take a change, however, when Pepe (Rene Rosado) pulls up to Dylan’s worksite, soliciting a handful of farm-hands for a mysterious job. Desperate for work, Dylan hops into the back of Pepe’s pickup truck, blissfully unaware that his one-note life is about to change for good.
The destination is The House of Splendor: A ranch run by Pepe and his partner Sky (Eve Lindley), a free-spirited, hypnotic barrel racer. Everyone who sets eyes on Sky is instantaneously transfixed. Dylan is no exception. Typically reserved and aloof, he begins to fantasize about her: Sitting bareback on a horse against the magnificent backdrop of rugged western mountains, bathed in luminous desert light. You can probably guess where this is going, right?
Don’t be so sure. The beauty of National Anthem is that it effortlessly challenges all expectations and preconceived notions. Helmed by photographer Luke Gilford in his feature directorial debut, National Anthemis an extension of his 2020 photo project of the same name, which showcases the International Gay Rodeo Association. Throughout the work, Gilford uses rich, tender, intimate portraits of queer cowboys to refute our pre-established perception of Americana culture and aesthetic.
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