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IFFR 2024 Bright Future

Review: Tale of Shepherds

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- Jaime Puertas Castillo observes the disappearance of the Andalusian agropastoral world in an astonishing first work straddling tradition and modernity

Review: Tale of Shepherds

If the right hadn’t appropriated this concept too, we might speak of Tale of Shepherds as if it were a world of archaeofuturism. Unsurprisingly presented in the IFFR’s Bright Future section, the film sets about reconstructing elements from the rural past and speaking of them as if in the future. It all begins when a geologist (Mari Marín) who works for the Prehistoric and Paleontological Museum of Orce meets an injured shepherd (Antón Rodríguez) in the heart of the Andalusian countryside. This highly unlikely encounter between a shepherd and a budding geologist gives rise to the exploration and mapping of the rural houses in the outskirts of Puebla de don Fadrique in southern Spain. These houses are seen as mythical outposts of a now lost civilisation and are described as a kind of door to supernatural destinations. Meanwhile, there’s talk in this small, rural community, of the discovery of a strange meteorite, shrouding various events in mystery.

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The very sparse plot of Tale of Shepherds provides young director Jaime Puertas Castillo with an opportunity to capitalise on daily moments of silence, to take his time to observe and rediscover a lost time, and to reinvent places from his own childhood as testimonies not only of far off and now past times, but also as recipients of a future yet to be rewritten. What will the future hold for these lands?, the director seems to ask himself.

The film is set in 2027, in a not too distant and not too dystopic future, which in some respects we’re already inhabiting, amidst the ruins of ancient and millennial civilisations. Puertas Castillo’s work moves away from the ethnographic descriptions generally used to explain Mediterranean agropastoral civilisation, and he only needs a few frames to describe an entire community, a value system and their states of mind. It’s an economy of images which is a rare thing in modern-day cinema, and which showcases the wisdom of such a young director with such a mature approach.

There’s room for contemplation in Tale of Shepherds, but it’s not an end in itself, self-congratulatory or nostalgic. And there’s no lack of comedic elements either, whether on account of protagonist Mari, a new Maude who’s always on the look-out for new buildings to catalogue, or the more or less veiled tributes to B-list sci-fi films featuring unidentified flying drone objects. With its lyrical and spiritual ending where the language becomes hybrid and the images reveal scenes of supernatural power, Tale of Shepherds sits between tradition and modernity, playing with genres to offers up a make-believe and fantastical snapshot of Spain, which is worthy of Don Quixote and his many adventures.

Tale of Shepherds is an unassuming film which boasts a keen sense of imagination on the part of its creator and a certain desire to play with fantasy and the fantastical without bringing itself down to the reality of our miserable present.

Tale of Shepherds is produced by Películas Maria and Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola.

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(Translated from Italian)

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