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Jonathan Cenzual • Director

“We have some breathtaking places in Spain that we don’t know about”

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- A month ahead of its Spanish release, The Shepherd, the third film by Spaniard Jonathan Cenzual, shot in the Salamancan countryside, is coming out in British cinemas

Jonathan Cenzual  • Director
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

The Shepherd [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jonathan Cenzual
film profile
]
 is the third feature by Jonathan Cenzual Burley, who was born to an English mother and a Spanish father, and settled in a town in Salamanca province. Having started out as a chef before reinventing himself as a filmmaker, he is about to release this vibrant movie, starring a beleaguered character that strongly resembles the ones in Miguel Delibes’ novels. It will come out in the UK first (on 2 June, courtesy of Matchbox Films), then in Spain (on 7 July, he himself having served as producer).

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Cineuropa: What is so fascinating about the Salamancan countryside, where you have set your films?
Jonathan Cenzual:
 I like it because it’s a wilderness, a void, with a very special kind of beauty. There are picture-postcard areas of Salamanca, like the mountains, with their olive trees, but what I like the most about La Armuña is the sky: there’s absolutely nothing on the horizon, so you just see the heavens, with all the ever-changing colours: green, then brown and eventually red. The light is very changeable, depending on the time of day, turning from bucolic and warm to oppressive and claustrophobic. That vastness can make you feel either like you’re being embraced or like you’re completely alone: and that only happens there and in Patagonia, Argentina. We have some breathtaking places in Spain that we don’t know about. And since there is nothing at all there, it’s also like a theatre stage: all the action is contained there, and you can’t get away from it – that’s what happens to the main character in The Shepherd, as he can’t find anywhere to hide.

The film has been described as a rural western…
I used that term when I was doing the crowdfunding campaign, but while I was shooting, I wasn’t thinking in terms of making a western: it’s easier to get a producer to support you if you tell them what the end result is going to be. The genre came along after the film.

As your movie shows, money has become the great evil of our time.
Money is power: it’s the survival of the fittest. Nowadays strength comes from money; it’s the source of all power. The shepherd is strong in a very archaic way, while his enemies believe they have the power of money behind them, and that’s why they think they can walk all over him. The film is a criticism of the abuse of power. They think the protagonist is wrong in the head because he doesn’t want material objects: but he has a freedom that almost nobody these days enjoys, because he doesn’t feel the need to possess things. People think they need what the adverts tell them they need, but the shepherd is above all of that: he’s reached a level of happiness that 90% of human beings would like to achieve, because most people are not happy with their lot. That’s okay, because you’ll work to achieve something else, but the problem arises when, in your eagerness, you couldn’t care less about trampling all over someone else.

Anything can be bought for a price, according to many people...
Yes, but this farmer doesn’t work with the same currency, and that’s where they clash, because his enemies think they can buy him with money, and as he is not interested in the cheque they offer him, he breaks the mould and throws them completely. They can’t get their heads around why someone wouldn’t want money and try to find a way to achieve their objective: abusing him, first in a condescending way, and then harassing him, simply because he doesn’t go along with their plans. Greed is the thing that finally causes them to disregard their moral compass.

(Translated from Spanish)

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