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Review: Winter Nomads – Nomadic Winter (2012)

Directed by: | 90 minutes |

In order to fully achieve their role, some actors apply the so-called “method acting” technique. They look for emotions and experiences from their own lives and use them to put themselves in the shoes of their character. In preparation for his documentary about the lives of two herders, the Franco-Swiss director Manuel Von Stürler did what you could call “method directing”. Von Stürler, who became fascinated with the shepherds during a trip, followed two of them for four years and participated in a complete transhumance (moving cattle with the changing of the seasons).

In “Winter Nomads,” the director follows two sympathetic shepherds, the dyed-in-the-wool Pascal, who has been practicing the trade for thirty-three years in winter, and Carole, a young woman who has a few things to learn.

Accompanied by three donkeys, three sheepdogs, a puppy and no less than eight hundred (!) Sheep, they travel for four months through all kinds of weather from Switzerland to France, with the aim of bringing their sheep – intended for consumption – as fed as possible across the border. . To achieve this, Pascal and Carole travel six hundred kilometers on foot. In the ninety minutes that the documentary lasts, we see the landscape slowly but surely becoming greener and the herd of sheep smaller.

The sight of the Nomadic duo is one that takes you straight back in time a few hundred (or say a thousand!) Years. Pascal and Carole wear traditional clothes, make tea on a campfire, sleep under a canvas cloth and cover themselves with animal skin. Only the single car that has to give way to the herd betrays that it really is the 21st century that we are looking at (and let’s face it, Pascal’s cell phone, which the director probably only deliberately showed in the picture towards the end of the ninety minutes).

“Winter Nomads” is a romanticized look at a world from a bygone era. The consequences of the ever-increasing urbanization on the shepherding profession become clear in the documentary in a simple manner. One year later, a former grassland suddenly became a residential area and the two have to adjust their route.

The award-winning documentary has been cleverly edited. Von Stürler is adept at the art of omission. We learn more about the two, especially during the meetings with curious hikers and the reunion with old acquaintances who pass the Pascal and Carole on their annual route.

The stylized cinematography of “Winter Nomads” is an interesting contrast to the no-nonsense attitude of its protagonists and is a visual piece of craftsmanship: it is clear that Von Stürler once started as a photographer. Carole’s red cap stands out beautifully against the snowy landscape, as does the huge flock of sheep. As a surprised passer-by remarks: “I find this contrast of light and shade pretty. In this white area, which is like an A4 sheet. With the dog in the foreground. ”

“Winter Nomads” is a sober documentary with beautiful images and a nostalgic approach, which, especially when spoken, sometimes feels like a feature .

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