Review: The Shepherd (El Pastor) dir. Jonathan Cenzual Burley
The Shepherd opens with a gorgeous ten-minute sequence of the Spanish countryside, seen through the eyes of middle-aged shepherd and protagonist Anselmo (Miguel Martin), as he leads a simple existence with his dog Pillo tending to his flock in a solitary house. It’s easy to side with him and want him to keep his slice of paradise as he goes to the library, drinks his morning coffee and appreciates the naturally vibrant spectrum of colours in the sunset to Tim Walters’ score, unintrusive and fitting perfectly with the scenery.
Miguel Martin cuts a figure of strength and permanence, an unwavering force that stands firm in spite of the forces that seek to topple him. There is a quiet, stoic power that emanates from him, and there is no need for him to resort to force or shouting to get his way. Even though there are enemies from all sides, including fellow villagers trying to convince him to sell the land, he is steadfast in his beliefs, constantly aware he has the upper hand, and that in itself is a source of incredible admiration.
The Shepherd is a film that attempts to highlight the heroism in the countryside pit against the evils of corruption and greed. A simple life becomes a thing of beauty when contrast with the pains and complications of the modern world, and something worth fighting for and preserving even in the face of insurmountable odds. Rich in its visuals and a film that easily wins one over with its simple plot and likeable main character, it’s no wonder it swept the awards at the recent London Raindance Festival. It’s certainly one of the most gorgeously shot underdog films we’ve seen in a while, and indubitably, makes us want to slow down in our crazy urban life and stop to watch the sunset once more.