Winter Nomads

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Hiver nomade

“Hugely engaging… a character portrait of two unconventional social outsiders, and a picture of a trade that most of us probably didn’t know had endured in modern Europe.” — Jonathan Romney, Screendaily

Year: 2012
Country: Switzerland
Running time: 90 mins

Producers: Elisabeth Garbar, Heinz Dill
Screenplay: Claude Muret, Manuel von Stürler
Photography: Camille Cottagnoud
Editor: Karine Sudan
Music: Olivia Pedroli
In French with English subtitles

With: Pascal Eguisier, Carole Noblanc, Jean-Paul Peguiron

Festivals: Berlin, San Francisco 2012

If it weren’t the year’s most charming documentary I’d never try to sell a Swiss film about sheep and shepherds (with a sheepdog called Kiwi) to an audience of New Zealanders.

Standing proud and handsome in a splendid hat that might have been painted by Bruegel, veteran shepherd Pascal Eguisier, along with his earnest, good-humoured young apprentice Carole Noblanc, may be the happiest, most appealingly grounded pair you’ll see on screen at this year’s Festival. They are leading 800 sheep, several dogs and donkeys and a criminally cute puppy across hundreds of miles of wintry Swiss countryside. The four-month trek known as transhumance allows the animals to forage on verges and common ground as they are herded between summer and winter grazing. Not every farmer or local authority whose land they cross is delighted by this centuries-old tradition, but more often the two are welcomed indoors as regular annual dinner guests. The supermarket-deli Christmas dinner they share in their tiny tent may make those who have slaved to provide more lavish festive spreads weep with envy. — BG