Once in a while you have to take a gamble and go see a documentary about sheep farming, trust me, it will be worth it. This film is delicate, beautiful, human and made with a lot of passion.
When something is familiar to you it is often hard to see the extraordinary in it, something an outsider might find beautiful or remarkable. But, despite being a farmer’s daughter herself, director Magali Pettier was able to capture the delicate moments that give us a real insight into the intricate life as a sheep farmer in the stunning North Pennines.
It is a life so close to us that we have probably never given it a second thought, but we should.
It might not be the same as a documentary about the first man on the moon, or the revelation that there never was one. But, the highs and the lows of sheep farming are laid out bare in this film through the everyday lives of tenant farmers Tom and Kay Hutchinson, and it is done in a way that could have had me watch it for another two hours.
The hardworking couple, together with their three young children, look after their flock of prized Swaledale sheep. Their hope is to produce a faultless flock that sets their sheep apart, not only from those bred on other farms but also of those ‘farmed’ by the big industrial boys, who with the help of mechanics sell their meat cheap to the supermarkets.
If you don’t know what a faultless Swaledale looks like, not to worry, Tom will explain all. As will his two children Jack and Hetty, number three, the lovely 12-year old Esme, is less interested in the sheep, she’s, so she explains, “into art”.
Nonetheless, also she pitches in on the farm every day and working as a team, we see the family survive season after season. Though, as Tom points out, only just.
Sheep farming, despite winning them trophy after trophy, doesn’t bring in the big bucks. Creativity is needed and through doing a lot of work for the other farmers, the family supplement their income.
A strength of this film is seeing how this family really works as one unit and how they care about their stock and what they do. Farming was a choice for them, and one they really got behind. One thing becomes clear, farming is not for the faint, but farming can make you happy.
This is more than an ob-doc, it is made with passion. The same passion we see 13-year old Jack display when he tries to explain the process of breeding. “You need to keep the tups separate otherwise the tup that you want to tup some with, will tup the ones that you want the other tups to tup with.” Anyone?
Addicted to Sheep will be released in UK cinemas on 28 August 2015.