The cinematography in Sheep Hero is at times stunning, with early establishing shots of the bucolic countryside at dusk shot on a Sony Red camera with a wide lens and very open aperture, his skies aflame with contrasting blue and orange grading. Van Zantvoort’s use of drones is no less impressive as Stijn and his flock diminish in size and importance, reflecting, the director suggests, the perceived perception of the shepherd by his landlord. One fantastic aerial shot depicts the flock as a storm vortex, with a solitary cow at its eye. Another high ‘white on white’ shot of the sheep against the snowy terrain could have been designed by Jasper Johns.
Van Zantvoort stresses his admiration for the work of esteemed DoP Emanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, The Revenant) while determining his visual choices. “I am more influenced by the cinematography of features than of documentaries.” The project started out as a regional film but grew in scope, especially when broadcaster KRO-NCRV came on board, resulting in a second picture lock. It had always been Van Zantvoort’s intention to make a feature and the broadcaster’s major suggestion was to make Stijn more sympathetic at the beginning so his decline seemed more stark.
“And they had a point. I think the film is better now…I am very happy and grateful the film now will be broadcast nationally.” Now that the film is finished, surely Van Zantvoort can relax and watch other people’s docs throughout the festival. Not at all. “IDFA has programmed my film eight times, so I will be busy handing out flyers!”