It was Wall Street‘s Gordon Gecko who infamously said ‘Greed is good’. While this simple message is enough to drive ambitious people to success, others can end up very easily driven to madness. Spanish filmmaker Jonathan Cenzual Burley incorporates this concept to devastating effect in his third film, which won Best Film, Director and Actor at Raindance Film Festival.
The Shepherd (original language: El Pastor) follows lone shepherd Anselmo (Miguel Martin), who lives contently in a rural shack with only his dog Pillo as company. His life is, however, disrupted when property developers wish to buy his land. His quick refusal leads to intense pressure from his neighbours Paco (Juan Luis Sara) and Julian (Alfonso Mendiguchia), who cannot profit from the sale of their own land without Anselmo’s agreement.
What the film beautifully captures is the contrasting attitudes to wealth. On one side is Anselmo, who is content with a minimalist lifestyle that he doesn’t care about having more money, while on the other side, Paco and Julian are slowly driven mad by their greed. While it is easy to initially side with Anselmo, the story slowly unveils hidden depth by showing that there is more than financial gain behind Paco and Julian’s drastic behaviour, which also balances out this initial underdog story.
The performances by the three male leads are incredibly compelling and only grow in complexity and intensity as the film progresses. However, Martin shines as the calm and indifferent Anselmo, as he highlights a level of maturity and restraint in his performance.
Filmed amid the vast Spanish landscapes, Burley’s sporadic camerawork and his emotive screenplay provide a raw outlook on the unravelling chaos, while allowing the plot to guide the viewer through the growing conflict, which slowly yet wonderfully paces itself to an emotional climax.
Overall, The Shepherd is a nicely paced neo-noir drama that is anchored by Martin’s compelling performance.
Director: Jonathan Cenzual Burley
Stars: Miguel Martin, Juan Luis Sara, Alfonso Mendiguchia
Runtime: 98 minutes