The Shepherd (El Pastor), 2016.
Written and directed by Jonathan Cenzual Burley.
Starring Miguel Martín, Juan Luis Sara, Alfonso Mendiguchia, Maribel Iglesias, and Carlos San Jorge.
A self-sufficient shepherd’s home and way of life is threatened when property developers take an interest in his land.
With The Shepherd – or El Pastor in Spanish – Jonathan Cenzual Burley (El Alma de las Moscas, El Año y la Viña) has created a beautiful and devastating indictment of modern society and greed.
The titular shepherd Anselmo (Miguel Martín) leads a quiet and happy existence based in the idyllic environs of Salamanca, North Western Spain. He is untroubled by the excesses and complications of modern life, preferring instead a solitary existence centred around his flock of sheep and loyal dog Pillo. After a stunning opening montage of exterior shots placing Anselo’s life in the context of the local region and the natural order of things, the film then charts the course of an encroaching and damaging modern greed. This takes the shape of property developers who are eager to push through a new building project. Their main problem being that Anselmo’s humble land and home are right in the middle of their plans. They attempt to subtly engage him and find out his price, all to no avail. They soon discover that extra pressure will need to be placed on this individual, who they deem as simple or mentally impaired just because he has no desire – or need – for any extra money, or early retirement.
This extra pressure soon arrives as the property men employ two of Anselmo’s neighbours Paco (Juan Luis Sara) and Julián (Alfonso Mendiguchia) to have a few ‘friendly’ chats. In quick time it becomes apparent that nearly everyone in town – except librarian Conchi (Maribel Iglesias) who looks forward to Anselmo’s visits to collect or return works of literature – has an interest in developments and whether or not the plans will go through. Anselmo, a stubborn and uncompromising man, will not be pushed or harried into anything he does not want to do, and the film plays out as a painful warning that some characters will react rather than be pushed.
The Shepherd, is a powerful film about the struggles to keep one’s identity and way of life intact in the face of global economics and modernisation. As architectural developments and housing project take up more and more space and land, it is a story that will only become more pertinent as time goes by. The transformation of the story into a darkly beautiful film featuring a rugged anti-hero who asks for nothing in return that nothing is asked of him is a great and memorable achievement.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.