Winner of Best Film and Director at the 2016 Raindance Festival, Jonathan Cenzual Burley's El Pastor (The Shepherd) starring Miguel Martin is released by Matchbox Films on Friday 2nd June.
Martin plays the titular Anselmo, a middle-aged shepherd, who lives a poor but happy life in a small, run down house in the middle of Spanish plains, but his community is slowly growing. For company, he only has his loyal dog Pillo and his abundance of sheep. This life suits him with no television, and the books from his library to read, yet a construction company wants to buy his land for a new complex.
Anselmo refuses the approaches from the company as is his prerogative, in contrast are neighbours Julian (Alfonso Mendiguchia) and Paco (Maribel Iglesias); two men who both want to sell for opposing reasons and attempt to convince the shepherd to do likewise.
The film tells this morality tale of greed and honour, with stunning consequences set against a magical landscape frozen in time. The opening scene showing Anselmo going about his daily routine is beautifully shot and realised evoking early Terence Malick coupled with an elegant soundtrack that is both melancholic and inspiring by Tim Walters.
Burley has crafted not only a complex narrative of psychological cul-de-sacs questioning the moral shifts in the three main protagonists; each character is given an arc that is effectively rendered by the plot and the convincing performances. Anselmo goes from lonely man to fighting underdog, Paco goes from short fuse to coward and it is Julian who grows or changes the most within the story as his reasons for selling his land come to the forefront.
Harking back to B-movie Westerns with the lone farmer attempting to save his homestead, however, this film has no hero riding off into the sunset; it could be considered Burley has crafted a critique of the socio-political ramifications facing Spanish homeowners who face an uncertain future in regards to the poisonous financial climate.
El Pastor would be a pleasing pairing with The Olive Tree in a double bill, both are set in modern day Spain but dream of a simpler time in that countries past explaining how money and greed has ruined the industrious past making the present day a darker place.
This is a brilliantly constructed production with superb acting performances across the board that ratchets up the tension prudently to keep your attention gripped.
THE SHEPHERD (El Pastor) is in cinemas 2 June.