The Shepherd

 

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A telling but uncharacteristic Spanish film from Jonathan Cenzual Burley.

 
Shepherd, The


 

A triple award-winner at the 2016 Raindance Film Festival, The Shepherd (otherwise known as El pastor) may well prove to be Jonathan Cenzual Burley's most popular film to date. It is his third feature and once again Burley can be thought of as a one-man band for, in addition to writing directing and producing, he is responsible for the editing and for the photography. This time, however, he has come up with less quirky but effectively solid material. If The Soul of Flies (2011) was a surreal road movie and The Year and the Vineyard (2013) a bizarre Spanish Civil war tale involving time travel, The Shepherd tells a more straightforward tale about a man living in Castile who finds himself under pressure. This is Anselmo (Miguel Martin), the titular figure, who lives a spartan life with only a dog for company but who is at ease with his lot.

 

The pressure that is applied to Anselmo arises when more materialistic neighbours eager for money are approached by a construction company with plans for a development. However, it is a scheme that can only be realised if Anselmo too sells them his house and its land. But this loner, who had been born there and is content with things as they are, chooses to reject the offer made to him. At first everybody assumes that, since each man has his price, Anselmo will eventually succumb. Instead he continues to resist and hostility towards him consequently develops in ways that are increasingly violent.

 

It is possible that Spanish viewers will read into this tale something symbolical of Spain today and at least one critic, understandably impressed by the photography of the rural locations which sensibly enough are not overindulged, has made comparisons with the westerns of John Ford. For my part, however, I was much more inclined to see this film as being akin to the recent Brazilian film Aquarius. That work had an urban setting, but at its centre was another tale of an individual being pressurised to sell for a proposed development. Luckily, the contrasted backgrounds invite intriguing comparisons rather than a strong sense of déjà vu. Ultimately though Burley's tale does not entirely escape what might be seen as clichés, but for all that this is a powerful work well worth seeking out. Much of the credit for this goes to Martin whose Best Actor award was entirely justified. Be it in the initial slow-paced portrayal of Anselmo's life-style or in the drama that subsequently develops around him, Miguel Martin ensures that Anselmo comes across as an unusual but wholly believable man, somebody who is rooted in his native soil. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Miguel Martin, Alfonso Mendiguchia, Juan Luis Sara, Maribel Iglesias, Jaime Santos, Maite Iglesias, Pablo Malaga, Carlos San Jorge, Luis Rodriguez Oliver, Jose Carlos Martin.

 

Dir Jonathan Cenzual Burley, Pro Jonathan Cenzual Burley, Screenplay Jonathan Cenzual Burley, Ph Jonathan Cenzual Burley, Pro Des Laura Drewett, Ed Jonathan Cenzual Burley, Music Tim Laulik-Walters.

 

Jonathan Cenzual Burley Films/Matchbox Films-Matchbox.
98 mins. UK/Spain. 2016. Rel: 2 June 2017. Cert. 15.