Sheep Hero: the shepherd against institutions and power

We must be grateful to IndieCinema: in the very first months of its existence, the courageous and innovative online platform showed excellent potential, making available to the public an excellent selection of small Italian and foreign productions, both of genre that of a more purely authorial brand, both fictional and documentary.

And among the documentaries we have so far found some of the most beautiful works. From early May, for example, the thrilling documentary made in 2019 by Dutch filmmaker Ton van Zantvoort is visible on Indiecinema Sheep Hero , which received a lot of acclaim at the prestigious Swiss festival Visions du Réel and in several other international reviews. After seeing it, you can understand the reason for all this enthusiasm.

The parable of the “good shepherd”

Backed by an amazing photograph to say the least, Sheep Hero puts at the center of the scene an incessant fight not to succumb and whatever other aspect less, has characterized in recent years the life of Stjn and his family: that is a combative nucleus of shepherds struggling, in Holland, with institutions increasingly insensitive to the real needs of ordinary people and in particular of small producers, crushed even by the petty interests of the strongest economic conglomerates active in their field. The classic struggle of David against Goliath. But with no happy ending, more often than not.


The splendid documentary work by Ton van Zantvoort it is therefore a piece of the broader research carried out, in recent times, by various filmmakers, all aimed at bringing out the not so commendable face of a globalization that, especially in the agricultural sector, regularly crushes the smallest realities and vulnerable to benefit the large multinationals. This research, appropriately overturning this point of view, therefore has the merit of giving voice to that healthy, traditional world, which a plutocratic and unrestrained modernity without too many compliments aspires to crush.

The “dark side” of European institutions and neoliberal politics

The ancient art of herding is often at the center of a cinema conceived in this way. Just think, to stay on Italian soil, of a beautiful film like The last shepherd, shot in 2012 by Marco Bonfanti. Another very interesting title, although not as compact on a formal level, is The Lonely Battle of Thomas Reid by the Irish Feargal Ward, who also in 2017 tried to describe a story of dispossession with distressing implications, in able to outrage anyone.

The story of Sheep Hero

We can try to summarize it in a few lines: the protagonist Thomas Reid lived alone in his three-hundred-year-old house, being a farmer, surrounded by cows and chickens, before a well-known multinational manufacturer of microchips chose his own land to expand. The IDA (the Irish agency for the promotion of inward investments) filed a lawsuit to force the reluctant Thomas to sell his house and land to that cynical company, Intel, also with strong support. of an Irish government eager for short-term economic benefits. But Mr. Reid’s resistance to an idea of ​​impersonal “progress” that doesn’t look anyone in the face was something amazing …

Equally proud and dignified, in Sheep Hero, the figures of Stijn and his wife Anna, fighting with the flock wisely guided by their dogs against the shackles of a very hateful bureaucracy, against the brutal impact of an increasingly savage capitalism, against an anthropological fabric that has stopped have long been in solidarity.

Their “little ancient world” is something that is inexorably disappearing. And seeing a Dutch society so narrow and devoid of the most elementary mechanisms of solidarity and social parachutes, even more so now that the emergency Coronavirus is bringing out all the worst of the economic policies of the United States.

Stefano Coccia

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