I was treated to a taste of the Raindance Film Festival by my sister last month at Vue Piccadilly. Whilst browsing the selection of films to go see, two stood out: Nascent and The Shepherd. We had to pick one, so picked The Shepherd, to discover that Nascent was the short film showing just before The Shepherd as part of the ticket – perfect!
A civil war in Central African Republic has dispensed of the once peaceful nation, and replaced it with a land of fear and destruction, along with segregation between Christians and Muslims. This movie, directed by Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe, follows two young children – a Muslim girl and a Christian boy – whom confide in each on this issue that is shaping their lives. The soft voice of a child throughout (with assisting subtitles) is poignant against the setting and sounds. As they bounce off each other asking questions and seeking answers, we are confronted with a final question, with the child asking the other when they think the war will be over. The question is simple, blatant, and unrestrained, as we delve into the mind of a child. The two characters represent the many children involved in the horrors of war. We are forced to pause on the effect that war has on children, and the way war engulfs their childhoods. People try to protect the young first in war; we seem most saddened by the youngest casualties, yet no matter how much we try, they see what we see no matter what. With the gift of naivety, the children in Nascent vocalise questions we dare not to ask, for fear of not knowing the answers. Irrespective of age, the film reminds us that no-one really knows the answers to war. Written text then informs us that it was only by 2012, that the Central African Republic held their first democratic election. In just 7 minutes of movie making, we are reminded that war is brutal, unconstrained, unlimited, and seemingly never ending…
This film follows the life of shepherd Anselmo, living and working on his plot of land in Spain. He leads a non materialistic, simple life – whether looking after his flock of sheep, going to the local pub, or looking after his closest companion, his dog. He is soon confronted and threatened by a construction company who attempt to get Anselmo to sell his land to them – to which Anselmo both stubbornly and valiantly resists, despite heavy grief from once close friends. Brave, resilient, and determined, Anselmo takes the viewer to his side, forcing us to feel his anger. Director Jonathan Cenzual Burley delves deeply into the character, with vigorous detailing and explorations. As explained by Burley in the Q&A afterwards, this was not, however, about character analysis. Certainly for me, a blatant attack on current day capitalism. A great sense of him wanting to share and make aware to people that this behaviour is wrong – but sadly universal. A political outcry. Burley has to detail his character in order for us to feel involved, to care, to feel empathy and to rival against the conniving corporation.
Tranquil settings are shot beautifully and constantly throughout, becoming a consistent stylistic feature, so that every shot is utterly awe inspiring. A sense of calm and tranquility, juxtaposed by the brutal reality of the story that is the complete opposite of calm. Is it meant to stand to reflect what should be instead? This constant emphasis of the beauty of the land reminds us how precious it is; to then realise that if the corporation takes over, the land is destroyed through exposure to industrialisation, pollution and the egotistic wealthy.
I ask the final question of the Q&A to the director: “Do you think we will ever live in a society where profits do not come first?” To which he boldly replies “Never.” – adding that he is sorry his response is pessimistic, but he very much hopes that day may one day come, but certainly not realistic in his lifetime. It makes me sad that a man clearly so passionate about this issue – that he made a movie about it – doesn’t think it is a realistic possibility. We need more to be said and heard; we need system change. This movie boldly shames greed, exploitation and the deluded materialistic world that we live in.
These two movies share similar experiences: wars, corruption, discrimination and inequality. Inequality fuels war; to eradicate war, we need to eradicate inequality.
Quick thoughts on shorts versus feature lengths: which has the biggest impact?
Shorts – not a moment to lose concentration, nor a moment to forget whats happening. In a shorter space of time we are confronted with the huge issue, leading us to ask more and want to know more.
Feature lengths – a chance to build up the story and the characters. We become engrossed, with a more gradual understanding. We can become wholly attached to a character, getting to know them more fully, resulting in having more care for the issue?