Review: ‘Winter Nomads’

"Winter Nomads" provides a closeup of two people who've chosen to continue the tradition of shepherd-led flock migrations.

Shepherd-led flock migrations aren’t common in Western Europe these days, and Manuel von Stuerler’s engaging “Winter Nomads” provides a closeup of two people who’ve chosen to continue the tradition. Vet shepherd Pascal Eguisier and younger colleague Carole Noblanc steer 800 sheep, three donkeys, three grown dogs and one puppy across Swiss fields during the early winter months in the annual shift, or transhumance, to new grazing grounds. Offering a more scaled-down intimacy than “Sweetgrass,” von Stuerler’s debut showcases nature, but its real theme is its subjects’ engagement with their work. Fests will benefit before certain migration to Euro satcasters.

When tradition-minded Eguisier and Noblanc set out in November, they’re faced with unusually heavy snowdrifts on top of the ever-increasing problem of diminishing open pasture. There’s something incongruous about seeing such a large flock crossing a highway overpass, the sound of rushing traffic below, before they arrive at fields where the shepherds set up sleeping tents each night. What’s so unusual is that Eguisier and Noblanc don’t come from shepherd families, but chose this profession; Noblanc’s independent streak adds an extra layer to the journey. Visuals don’t skimp on the adorable.

Winter Nomads

Switzerland

Production

A Louise Prods. presentation of a Louise Prods., Radio Television Suisse, TSR, SSR-SRG Idee Suisse, Arte Geie production. (International sales: Louise Prods., Lausanne, Switzerland.) Produced by Elisabeth Garbar, Heinz Dill. Co-producers, Irene Challand, Gaspard Lamuniere, Patrizia Pesko, Annie Bataillard, Anett Sager. Directed by Manuel von Stuerler. Written by Claude Muret, von Stuerler.

Crew

Camera (color), Camille Cottagnoud; editor, Karine Sudan; music, Olivia Pedroli; sound, Marc von Stuerler, Etienne Curchod. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 10, 2012. Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Pascal Eguisier, Carole Noblanc, Jean-Paul Peguiron. (French dialogue)

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