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In Hidalgo, director Joe Johnson demanded that it was based on true story. However when I tried to look into the life of Frank Hopkins, I found his life is full of mystries and the whole story of his race in Arabia is very much disputed. Quoting wiki:

A number of his stories have been disputed by historians, for example, that he had won more than 400 races. He also said he had raced in a ceremonial 3,000-mile ride that passed the Gulf of Syria and the inland borders of two other countries, which was supposed to have taken place in Arabia in 1890.

Also the racing in Arabia is based on the autobiographical memoir by him which is really controversial as it is full of self-challenging information.

So from which source did the director claim the whole story to be true? Did they do any research themselves?

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Hidalgo is based on a not-so-true story:

... the Long Riders' Guild, a group for people who make continuous horseback journeys of 1,000 miles or more, have devoted considerable time to proving that Hopkins was a sham and that his story is a lie.

[...]

The most problematic of all the disputes, however, is the one surrounding the Ocean of Fire, the long-distance race through the Middle East that serves as the centerpiece event in the Disney movie... didn't exist.

[...]

Hidalgo screenwriter John Fusco acknowledges that he took some liberties with history in the script, but he is skeptical of the degree to which the anti-Hopkins camp discredits the rider.

Fusco says the Ocean of Fire existed — he based his account of it on two chapters about the race found in Albert W. Harris' Blood of the Arab, a book the screenwriter says is "considered to be the early 'Bible' on Arabian horse history."

Accurate as that assessment might be, Harris bases his Ocean of Fire chapters primarily on letters Hopkins wrote him in 1940 — hardly independent verification.

Beyond Blood of the Arab and Hopkins' own work, Fusco says, "Having taken place in 1890, and the Bedu culture being of an oral tradition, I was not bothered by lack of contemporary documentation" of the race.

The article has a bit more on John Fusco's research about Frank Hopkins being an accomplished horse rider, but

Fusco's research is difficult to verify.

To call Hopkins an [equestrian] enthusiast seems fair, but to present him as a real-life champion cowboy is outlandish.


Yes, the screenwriter did do some research, but there doesn't seem to be any hard evidence that the Ocean of Fire, the big race in the movie, actually ever happened.

Quoting Arab historian Dr. Awad Al-Badi:

There is absolutely no record or reference to Hopkins with or without his mustangs ever having set foot on Arabian soil.

The idea of a historic long distance Arab horse race is pure nonsense and flies against all reason. Such an event in Arabiaany time in the past is impossible simply from a technical, logistical, cultural and geopolitical point of view. This race has never been part of our rich traditions and equestrian heritage.

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