El pastor (The Shepherd, 2016)
Written and directed by Jonathan Cenzual Burley
Starring: Maribel Iglesias, Miguel Martín, Alfonso Mendiguchía
BY PABLO DE CASTRO
The 23rd edition of the extraordinary Spanish-speaking VIVA Festival Manchester took place just a couple of months ago. The film section is just one area of a much wider festival which addresses all means of artistic and cultural expression, including theatre, dance and visual arts. Once the festival was over, a few selected jewels started touring the country (same as the ‘Best of the IDFA’ tours The Netherlands: this will typically happen when cinema is seen as a cultural activity beyond business). These hidden gems have recently arrived to our own very Glasgow, and oh dear, the three selected pieces happen to arrive from Latin America.
At the same time though another Spanish-spoken film is being shown at the GFT, this one not as part of any themed cycle but as a regular ‘commercial’ release. This is fairly infrequent – which points at certain weaknesses in the Spanish distribution industry towards English-speaking markets, something that is gradually, encouragingly changing anyway though not as quickly as it could (see Marshland entry below).
This The Shepherd film addresses – if in an allegorical way – one of the most critical issues in the recent Spanish economic history: the so-called construction bubble. It does so in telling a simple story – the film is being advertised as a modern Western – with echoes of both recent films like The Olive Tree (Icíar Bollaín, 2016) and more classical Spanish themes around rural life. A shepherd in Central Spain faces the pressure of a group of property developers who want to purchase his land to start a lucrative project there. They have already persuaded all other property owners in the area to sell, so it’s not just the company what the character will have to face, but also the community or more loosely ‘a certain state of affairs’.
The film themes – ecology, greed, corruption – will resonate far beyond the more evident analysis of the Spanish economic circumstances (there are housing and property development bubbles in many other places around Europe). This is also a plead for remembering the values of simple life and a deep connection to nature.
This El pastor entry is a bit of an outlier in this Spanish Film blog, in that the film is not ‘a classic’ like most of the entries in this blog, but has only very recently been released and in that it is a completely non-mainstream production (or at least it was until prizes started raining on it). Hopefully this text may draw a few readers to watch it in an actual cinema room!
El pastor – Trailer with English subtitles
*Movie poster courtesy of Blazing Minds (https://blazingminds.co.uk/)
Pablo de Castro works as Open Access Advocacy Librarian at the University of Strathclyde. He is passionate about cinema and Cinema City.