Oldenburg Film Festival 2020 review: ‘Buck Alamo- A Phantasmagorical Ballad’ sings its way into your soul.

Eli Cody is walking on unsteady feet towards the end of his life. The singing cowboy who calls himself Buck Alamo has pretty much hurt all the people he loved and who loved him. After his doctor tells him that any day could be his last, Buck and his loyal dog Chester go on an odyssey throughout Texas to beg forgiveness of friends and his two daughters and several friends… as well as to relive some of the good old days.

To adore the look of this film is to be, perhaps unknowingly, a cinephile. The black and white cinematography begs for your attention, as does the handheld camera work and editing. Bathed in natural light, you cannot help but be completely enamored with Buck Alamo- A Phantasmagoriacal Ballad from the very beginning. Then color kicks in. Simply beautiful. It screams authenticity. The score has a quaint and sometimes ominous feel that is delightfully matched with the plot.  Our leading man pours every ounce of himself into this role. Once he’s given a death sentence by his doctor, he seems to make amends with his children who want nothing to do with him. He does his best to come to terms with the state of his life through music and storytelling.

The entire ensemble is incredibly talented. There is no doubt they are all perfectly cast. Sonny Carl Davis as Buck is spectacular. This is the kind of performance actors work their entire lives to achieve. It’s complex, nuanced, sympathetic, and devastating. He is a joy to watch. Bruce Dern plays death with the eagerness of a teenager and the fire of an ancient being. He is a legend perfectly matched with Davis.

Oldenburg Film Festival is lucky to share this feature’s World Premiere. Buck Alamo is a family affair, made with love, attention, and creativity. It directly begs the question of legacy. As the music ramps up, so does the plot. This film lives and dies in those musical numbers. And I can easily attest, Buck Alamo – A Phantasmagorical Ballad is very much alive and kicking, ladies and gentlemen. Sit back, relax, and take in all the glory of this incredibly unique viewing experience.


Ben Epstein‘s directorial debut is a man‘s poetic journey into his own past – full of music, zest for life, and melancholy. Led by a lifetime performance by the great Sonny Carl Davis (Thelma and Louise) and supported by the wonderful Lorelei Linklater, whom we witnessed growing up during her father Richard‘s Academy Award-winning film BoyhoodBuck Alamo lets us dive into an America whose proverbial dream might be dying on the vine, but still lives on in the hearts of its people. A musical – acid western narrated by Hollywood legend Bruce Dern, which unloads its existential chamber like a Texas folk song