Project Description

SHEEP HERO documentary Top 10 best of IDFA
  • SHEEP HERO awards Ton van Zantvoort
  • SHEEP HERO documentary
  • sheep hero documentary


Shepherd Stijn has a romantic world view, but his idealism clashes with the harsh reality of having to be a modern entrepreneur. In this poignant and cinematic documentary we come close to Stijn and his family in their quest to keep the tradition of sheep herding alive. Will his struggle pay off or is he forced to go with the flock?

director: Ton van Zantvoort
producer: NEWTON film | seriousFilm
broadcaster: Omroep Brabant | KRO-NCRV
distribution nl: Windmill Film Distribution
world sales: Films Transit International
language: Dutch | English subtitles
81 minutes | 58 minutes
format: UHD 3840 x 2160 | DCP 2K flat, 5.1, 1:85, 25 fps
ISAN: 0000-0004-D799-0000-O-0000-0000-2
categories: Human interest, environment, neoliberalism

SHEEP HERO trailer



How to live in a world that conflicts with your ideals?
A traditional shepherd is forced to innovate in a neo-liberal world that conflicts with his idealistic views.

synopsis (61 words)
Shepherd Stijn has a romantic world view, but his idealism clashes with the harsh reality of having to be a modern entrepreneur. In this poignant and cinematic documentary we come close to Stijn and his family in their quest to keep the tradition of sheep herding alive. Will his struggle pay off or is he forced to go with the flock?

synopsis (113 words)
SHEEP HERO is a 81-minute cinematic documentary about a traditional shepherd who is forced to innovate in a neoliberal world that conflicts with his idealistic views. With no voice-over the  story is told in a cinematic and observational cinema vérité style. The film shows the hardships of herding sheep and the harsh reality of a contemporary entrepreneur trying to keep his business going. Will his struggle pay off or is he forced to go with the flock?

SHEEP HERO got selected by more than 75 (renowned) international film festivals and won a dozen awards already. Ton van Zantvoort did not only direct the film, but also did production, cinematography, editing, grading and more.

synopsis (187 words)

SHEEP HERO tells the story of Shepherd Stijn, an outspoken idealist who may have been born in the wrong place and era. He feels at home on the quiet heathlands tending his sheep, far away from today’s hectic Western society. Stijn and his family fight to maintain their quiet and simple life, but this is proving to be increasingly difficult in a densely populated, modern world where the power of money and mass production outweighs good intentions and slow traditions. The family is heading towards a turning point: they can either continue their downward spiral or throw in the towel.

The documentary starts from the romantic idea of living a mindful life as a sheep herder, but then clearly reveals the frustration of a non-conformist who is only trying to live his own life. The beautiful images and storyline of the documentary clearly depict the constant physical and mental struggle of the protagonist as he tries to strike a balance between his ancient profession and being a modern-day entrepreneur. Stijn has to make a choice, does he keep on fighting the system or is there another option?

Worried look

synopsis IDFA (168 words)
About 10 years ago, filmmaker Ton van Zantvoort got to know Stijn, an idealist with a cheerful, relaxed nature. Stijn is one of the last remaining Dutch shepherds working in the traditional way. We see the shepherd, his sheep and his three loyal dogs crisscrossing nature reserves and farmlands so the herd can graze the land in an eco-friendly way. But nowadays, little remains of the romance and peace that we associate with the centuries-old tradition of sheepherding. Tenders are increasingly hard to acquire—competition from big companies, cheap East European shepherds and smart machinery make Stijn the expensive choice.

With the camera in his wake, the shepherd roams across picturesque Dutch landscapes, talking passionately about his inventive approaches to preserving his traditional occupation. But even as he tries so hard to keep his company afloat, the same camera captures how the incessant stress transforms him into an embittered man with a quick temper. Tragicomic conflicts alternate with scenes of beautiful nature and Stijn’s pleasantly chaotic family life.

synopsis (294 words)

Ten years ago, director Ton van Zantvoort became friends with one of the last traditional shepherds in the Netherlands. He had a perfect life: a loving wife, a flock of sheep, and was living in nature as we all once did and often still long for. Throughout the years the filmmaker noticed how the relaxed, cheerful and passionate shepherd was becoming bitter and increasingly short-tempered. A traditional shepherd losing his hair overnight, because of extreme stress: what a paradox. Was herding sheep not supposed to be the most relaxed and romantic profession in the world? ‘The silent heath is no longer quiet. There is a war going on in the heathlands’ and so the story began.

Stijn’s environment is closing in on him. In an overregulated society his quest for freedom is a struggle almost too hard to bear. His resentment is palpable, but there is also his stubbornness and determination to see it through to the end. He wants to keep his herd and the heathlands healthy and faces many obstacles along the way. Who looks out for the cultural heritage that is sheep herding? And are we able to salvage beauty amongst all our freeways and advancing industrial zones and suburbs. Life will be irrevocably different if the herd goes, as with it the craft will also vanish. Is it too late to save Stijn’s dream?

With no voice-over and very little interviews, this 81-minute cinematic story is told in an observational cinema vérité style. Where Stijn goes, the camera follows and, as in direct cinema, we become unaware of the camera’s presence.

The feature-length documentary shows the hardships of herding sheep in today’s neoliberal world and the harsh reality of a contemporary entrepreneur trying to keep his business going. Anything but a dream job. Will his struggle pay off or is he forced to go with the flock?

SHEEP HERO synopsis


Director’s statement

Many years ago I met Stijn, one of the last traditional shepherds in the Netherlands. Throughout the years, I noticed how the relaxed, cheerful and passionate shepherd became bitter and short-tempered. A traditional shepherd losing his hair overnight, because of extreme stress. How paradoxical. Was herding sheep not supposed to be the most relaxed and romantic profession in the world? ‘The silent heath is no longer quiet. There is a war going on in the heathlands,’ Stijn said to me and so the story began.

We live in a world that is determined by economic laws and this has penetrated deeply into one of the most romantic professions in the world. In many ways I am like Stijn. We both live in a neoliberal world, which is at odds with our ideals. I too chose an insecure, creative existence because of my ideals. In my own way I try to contribute to a better world by making films about these topics. I too am a little entrepreneur who cannot escape innovation. Wouldn’t we all like to go back to nature, to real life, to what it’s all about? But how far should you go to try and realise your ideals? And isn’t it easier to just follow the herd?

I see the world around me as a visual, narrative source. Looking at, wondering about and consciously experiencing what is happening around me is a feeling I am trying to instill in the audience. As a filmmaker I look for themes that may seem to only represent small and everyday issues, but I use them to discuss bigger, universal themes. Not in order to make a didactic statement but to encourage viewers to think about themselves, about the world we live in and about what binds us as people.

My films are about people I meet; about the world we live in and how small it has become. Looking back at my films, many protagonists share the same motivation. They are all trying to live and realise their dreams. People who hold up a confronting mirror to us in our relatively carefree existence. These people suffer consequences of our capitalist economy, which can only be maintained if there is sufficient growth and profit. It is a paradigm of infinite growth on a finite planet. Although a growing number of people realise this, there are only few who actually do something about it. People who go against the current, or strive for their ideals, regardless of the cost. This is what appealed to me when I met Stijn. He made a conscious choice for a different, more sustainable lifestyle. But is such a lifestyle still an option in our current society?

Ton van Zantvoort



Ton van Zantvoort (Heesch, 1979) is an acclaimed director, cinematographer and editor, whose films have screened at numerous prestigious A- film festivals. His work has been broadcast all over the world (VPRO, ARTE/ZDF, Al Jazeera) and he has won a dozen awards for best director, best cinematographer and best editor.

name: Ton van Zantvoort
production company: NEWTON film |
other websites: | |
other: IMDB | Facebook | LinkedIn

1999- 2003 Art Academy St. Joost, Audiovisual. diploma obtained with credit
1996- 1999 Grafisch Lyceum Eindhoven, Art-direction. diploma obtained
1991- 1996 HAVO, Maaslandcollege Oss. diploma obtained


Ton van Zantvoort (Heesch, 1979) graduated with credits at the Academy for Visual Arts in Breda in 2003. In 2006, his debut film GRITO de PIEDRA premiered at IDFA and was broadcast by ARTE/ZDF and other stations. His second feature a BLOOMING BUSINESS, a co-production with the Dutch VPRO, was screened at hundred (renowned) international film festivals, broadcasted worldwide and won a dozen awards, such as at DOK Leipzig. In 2016 his controversial documentary, the BENNO TAPES, won a Golden NL Award.

As with his acclaimend movie SHEEP HERO (81 minutes, 2018), he was not only responsible for (co-) production and directing for all these above mentioned films, but Ton van Zantvoort also did the cinematography, editing, grading, artwork and more. SHEEP HERO was selected by more than 70 renowned international film festival (such as IDFA, Thessaloniki, Vision du Réel, DOK.fest, GZDOC, DOCNYC) won dozen s of awards and nominations and got a theatrical release in several European countries. Besides longer films van Zantvoort has made dozens of short (art) films, gives master classes at (art) academies in Europe and Canada and was a jury member for several international film festivals and for organisations such as Panasonic International.

In addition to producing his own documentary films, van Zantvoort has also produced documentaries for other directors: DAY is DONE* by acclaimed director Guido Hendrikx (premiered at IDFA), FALLING (EO) by Jef Monté, a feature length film about the enigmatic artist Dick Verdult.  (Omroep Brabant) More recently, Like a dog (with KRO-NCRV) and The Hole In My Life (with EO).

About the director

Ton van Zantvoort observes with great attention and takes us into the worlds of people on the edge, people who try to survive but are confronted by external forces such as tourism, international commerce and mass consumption. With great humanity, van Zantvoort shows us a different world in which all human life is valuable. His films are characterized by a language of intimate images, a poetic structure and enormous involvement. In his lyrical documentaries with socio-economic overtones he usually resists the temptation of doing interviews. His work is original and testifies to a great effort of will by the maker. The vision of a Western civilized person who holds up a mirror to us. A confronting mirror, but one that invites you to take a long good look.


Filmography as director (selection)
ALL OF US, 85 min, in production
SHEEP HERO, 81 min, in co-production with seriousFilm, 2018
THE BENNO TAPES, 54 min, with Van Osch Films, 2015
Kees en Mien, 30 min, in co-production with Zuidenwind film, 2011
a BLOOMING BUSINESS, 52 min, co-production VPRO, 2009
GRITO de PIEDRA, 55 min, 2006
other films: Past as future, 18 min, 2011; Lovely Planet, 8 min, 2009; Carrousel, 7 min, 2010; Another day in Bombay, 10 min, 2007; Isla Totora, 10 min, 2007; Pack, 5 min, 2005; Moja Mbegu, 5 min, 2004; Items, 25 min, 2003, Khamuvillage, 25 min, 2003

Filmography as producer (selection)
The Hole In My Life, 55 min, directed by Xavier van Delft, in development
Like a dog, 25 min, directed by Josefien van Kooten, in production
Dick Verdult, 70 min, directed by Luuk Bouwman, 2017
FALLING, 25 min, Teledoc Campus, directed by Jef Monté, 2014
Loving Heart, 71 min, directed by Wouter Verhoeven, 2013
Day is Done*, 30 min, directed by Guido Hendrikx, 2010

Director’s awards

Special Jury Award, Cinema Vérité, Iran, 2019
Best International Documentary Award, FICMA, Mexico, 2019
Best International Documentary Award and Audience award, NIFF (Nederland), USA, 2019
2nd Best International Feature film, Fiorenzo Serra Film Festival, Italy, 2019
Honourable mention, Cine Eco Seia, Portugal, 2019
Award of Excellence: Film Feature Accolade Global Film Competition, USA, 2019
Best Documentary Film, NYCA New York Cinematography Awards, USA, 2019
Honourable mention, Festiver Festival Barichara, Colombia, 2019
Green Warsaw Award, Millennium Docs Against Gravity, Poland, 2019
Best European Cinematography award, European Cinematography Awards/ ECA, 2019
Distribution award La Trois, Millennium Documentary Festival, Belgium 2019
Best Film and Best Director, NVIFF, The Netherlands, 2019
Top 10 best of IDFA audience award, IDFA, The Netherlands, 2018
Golden NL-Award, the Netherlands, 2016
NL Award, the Netherlands, 2016
Trevignano FilmFest Award, Italy, 2013
Honourable mention, best short, Planet in Focus, Canada, 2011
Jury award, FIFDH, France, 2011
Audience award, The Art of the Document, Poland, 2010
Special jury mention, The Art of the Document, Poland, 2010
Golden Olive, best documentary, Int Festival Montenegro, 2010
Golden Olive, best cinematography, Int Festival Montenegro, 2010
Audience award, Millennium Film Festival, Belgium, 2010
Press award, best film of the FICA festival, Goiás, Brazil, 2010
Best Treatment, Cinema Planeta, Cuernavaca, Mexico, 2010
Healthy Workplaces Award, DOK Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany, 2009
Special mention Open Eyes, Med Film festival, Rome, Italy, 2009
Audience award Mixed Greens, Planet in Focus, Canada, 2009
Honourable mention, Media city 13, Visual Art Festival, 2007
2nd price NFTVM award, for best new Dutch filmmaker, 2006
4th price 1 minute & sound award 2006/ dogs
Nomination for St. Joost Penning/ 2003

Ton van Zantvoort - SHEEP HERO documentary snow

Festival screenings (selection)

National – IDFA International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam (2018, 2010, 2006, 2005); Dutch Film Festival, Utrecht (2014, 2009, 2007, 2005);

Europe – DOK Leipzig, Germany; Visions du Réel, Switzerland, Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, Greece (2009,2019); DOK.fest, München, Festival dei Popoli, Italy; Documenta Madrid, Spain; Millennium Docs Against Gravity, Poland; Docpoint Helsinki, Finland; Edinburgh International Film Festival, UK; Docville, Belgium; One World Prague, Czech Republic; Dokufest, Kosovo; MakeDox Macedonia; Moldox, Moldavia; European Film Festival Palić, Serbia; Eberswalde Film Festival – Provinziale, Germany; Art of the Document Multimedia Festival, Poland; Split International Festival of New film, Croatia; International Millennium Film Festival, Belgium; International Film Festival for Human Rights, various locations in France; International Audiovisual Festival of Biodiversity, Italy; Kinookus FFF, Croatia; Sunchild Film Festival, Armenia; This Human World, Austria; Jihlava IDFF, Czech Republic; CineEco Portugal;

World – Vancouver International Film Festival, Canada; Planet in Focus, Toronto; Montreal Human Rights Film Festival; Margaret Mead Film Festival & travelling selection, New York, Chicago, Florida, Vermont, Indiana; BAFICI Buenos Aires; DOCSMX Festival Internacional de Cine Documental, Mexico; Animal & Nature Film Festival, Beijing, China; Film Festival Arlington, Virginia, USA; Duke City DocFest, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA; Criterio Ambiental, Costa Rica; Short Film Festival, Moscow; International Documentary Festival, Agadir, Morocco; Green Film Festival, Seoul, Korea; New Zealand International Film Festival; Flahertiana International Documentary Festival Russia; BIFED, Turkey; Festiver Festival Barichara, Colombia,


NEWTON film BV – creative documentary production, founder and Majority Shareholder 2006 – present
DOCfeed, Artistic advisor & volunteer, 2015- present
Stichting TEEK president : this foundation supports film makers who try to push the boundaries. (2008- present)
Guest teacher (directing, documentary, cinematography, editing 2006-present) at HKU Media Utrecht, St. Joost Acadamy Breda, Koning Willem 1 College ‘s-Hertogenbosch , Mgr. Frencken College Oosterhout, DOCedu, Sparkle (Eindhoven)
Masterclasses taught at Planet in Focus (Toronto); University of Manitoba, Canada; 3-day master class taught together with Cherry Duyns under the supervision of Jan Eilander at Dziga Nijmegen
Jury member at various (inter)national film festivals, including:
International Film Festival Montenegro (with Marija Perovic, among others), 2011
International Film Festival Breda (with Monic Hendrikx & Marc de Cloe), 2010
Filmfront Festival, Gorinchem (with Hans Eijses), 2010
Panasonic International LUMIX award, commissioned by Scholz & Volkmer (with Michael Lum & Fred Flade), 2010-2011

Publications (selection)

Publications, reviews and interviews in all national Dutch newspapers and periodicals, and on news sites, including Trouw, NRC, Volkskrant, AD, Telegraaf and Filmkrant, Brabants Dagblad, BN de stem,, De Groene A’dammer, EVA, KONKAV, virtually all Dutch TV guides, and in international newspapers and film festival publications, including EDN DOX magazine, Modern Times Review, Eye For Film, IDFA daily papers, Dutch Film Festival paper, etcetera.

TV and radio interviews (selection)

VPRO Best of IDFA NPO, Al Jazeera World, Sky Movies (UK), ArmNews (Germany), ET1 (Greece), NPO2 Radar (the Netherlands), Een vandaag (the Netherlands), TV10 (Dutch regional broadcaster), Radio Deutsche Welle (Germany), Radio Klara VRT (Belgium), Omroep Brabant Radio (Dutch regional broadcaster), Dit is de Dag EO (the Netherlands).





Jury report (by John Appel, Oscar van der Kroon et al.), Golden NL-Award, 2016
The makers have cleverly edited the material to achieve a powerful result. Impact and relevance are big. Watching this film is an emotional experience, going from sympathy to pity to annoyance to despair. As a viewer you are affected by all these emotions and you watch the documentary to the end with growing amazement. The film succeeds very well in letting the viewers judge for themselves.

Jukka Takala, Director of European Union -OSHA, Spain
Only 10 films from international filmmakers were nominated for the Film Award and selected from 2,578 documentaries submitted to DOK Leipzig this year. I would like to offer my congratulations to Ton Van Zantvoort, whose film was a worthy winner. He approaches the topic in a highly creative way and highlights the strength of international documentary film-making in 2009.

Jury rapport, NFTVM-award
Ton van Zantvoort shows his ability to use a purposeful approach and cinematic means to achieve a wonderful end result. In difficult circumstances he succeeds in creating well-rounded and mature images with fantastic lighting. His work shows historic awareness and respect for his characters. He cleverly succeeds in capturing an atmosphere and through neat observations he manages to get very close to his characters. Work of this high quality commands admiration and respect.

René Bosma, deputy director St. Joost Academy
His modus operandi seems to follow that of the direct cinema; direct observations with as few outside interventions as possible and control over virtually the entire creation process of the film. However, in Ton’s films you see a preference for stylisation and an emphasis on image and sound design. This makes the work original and its content is indicative of the film maker’s great willpower. In his films Ton determinedly takes a stance, presenting his own vision of reality, the vision of a Westerner who holds a mirror up to society and himself. This mirror shows things that are not easy to watch but still you enjoy looking into it at great length.

Panasonic International
Independent filmmaker is only half the description of what Ton van Zantvoort actually does. His films are typified by the language of intimate images, a poetic structure and enormous involvement. Van Zantvoort observes with great attention and takes us into a world of people who try to survive but are confronted by external powers as tourism, international commerce and mass communication. In his seven years of making films and art, the Dutch born director and cameraman has screened his works at hundreds film festivals around the world, has been awarded more than 25 times and has taught and written on photography and documentary making in various institutions.

Ton van Zantvoort Filmmaker


Trouw (national paper)“Film moment of 2019, not to be missed!”
Volkskrant (national paper) ★★★★a visual ode to a primeval landscape. And if there is ever a prize for the most beautiful drone images, SHEEP HERO should win.”
Nederlands Dagblad (national paper) ★★★★ “SHEEP HERO lets you really sympathize with Stijn.
Indebioscoop ★★★★★ “extreme strong film ”
Filmvandaag ★★★★ ½ Everything is perfect in SHEEP HERO. There is a complete story, interspersed with beautiful images and beautiful characters. None of this would be out of place in a feature film.
De Protagonisten ★★★★ “Truly recommended. The images are beautiful and more sincere than Stijn, you hardly find them anymore.”

International reviews of a BLOOMING BUSINESS

a poetic, cinematic and poignant documentary – IMDB Movie database – USA
the film intrigues and outrages in equal measure – Eye For Film, review 4 out 5 stars – UK
Part poetry, part explosive exposé – Newport International Film Festival – USA
A quietly formidable film – Vancouver International Film Festival -CA
It’s time to wake up and smell the imported roses – Edinburgh Int’l Film Festival – UK
for the outstanding artistic achievement of a strong film – Golden Olive Award

curriculum vitae NEWTON film

(Download NEWTON film curriculum vitae as pdf)

SHEEP HERO director


about Stijn

Shepherd Stijn has chosen to live as a free man, supporting his family in an honest and sustainable way. That is what he thought. But modern neoliberal life is hard, encloses him and grinds him down bit by bit. What is left of his freedom? Is there an ultimate escape?

He is a true idealist at heart. He believes in people looking out for one another, living in close connection with nature and being self-sufficient. However, he finds his pure, uncompromising way of life more and more at odds with the world around him. A world that is driven by money, technology and mass consumption.

A world that favours those who ’go with the flock’ and makes it impossible for Stijn to realize his dream. Stijn may not be a born businessman, but it is mainly this contrast between how the world should be and reality that has made him bitter. Stijn keeps at it, looking for new ways to survive and support his family. Trying to get by without losing yourself, isn’t that what we are all doing?

De Flaes Schaapsherder hooge mierde