Sheep Hero covers two make-orbreak years for Stijn as his future, and that of his family and flock, is decided one way or the other. “For me the film is not about a shepherd, it is about living in a world of conflicting ideals, about a small entrepreneur who is trying to fight the big companies that are taking over,” comments director Van Zantvoort.
Sheep Hero, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, offers a plethora of ovine tradecraft, from sheep shearing to butchering to the intricate management of accounts, but all the time we are witness to Stijn’s increasing disappointment and frustration as subsidies are withdrawn or as fines are issued for illegal use of the highway in transporting the sheep between pastures. And with Stijn’s change in circumstances comes an inevitable change in mood as he becomes incessantly short-tempered, moody and irascible.
“When people saw the first rough cut (with Stijn yelling and stressing most of the time), they were taken aback by that side of him,” admits the director. “I love Stijn and understand his behaviour, but the viewers didn’t feel for him the way I wanted them to feel, so a struggle during the editing was to create the exact right balance in Stijn’s character: loving and passionate shepherd on one hand, burned out and angry entrepreneur on the other.” Stijn nevertheless receives the unwavering support of his wife and co-workers. His mum and dad are always on hand too, and are even prepared to perform the loyal parental task of cleaning up poo, albeit that of a herd of sheep, off the local streets.