If you wish to watch something that will take your mind off the hustle and bustle of city life, you would enjoy a new docu-film called Addicted to Sheep. I did.
Addicted to Sheep, due to have its London Premiere on Friday 28th August at Picturehouse Central, is the feature debut film of director Magali Pettier (herself a farmer’s daughter) who gives an authentic look into the life of a tenant-farming family – the Hutchinson.
For the family, raising sheep is not just an addiction: it’s a livelihood, a way of life that many in the small close-knit community of The Raby Estate have chosen to lead. Parents Tom and Kay spend their days looking after their flock of Swaledale sheep, while their three young children help out in the daily chores, and attending a school entirely comprised of farmers’ children.
The film follows the couple’s work in nurturing, grooming and selling their sheep as the seasons change.
While giving an intimate insight into the endless list of hard work, in all weathers, of running a farm, the film showcases the total commitment of a hill-farming family in the North Pennines. Such is the authenticity of the film I could almost feel the cold during the winter scenes (bring a sweater to the cinema if I were you) and smell the sweat in the sequence of the clipping (or shearing) of sheep. In portraying the family’s dedication to their flock it draws you into a unique way of life in a remote rural world. Thoroughly admirable. Whoever is contemplating the idea of giving up their city day jobs for a relaxing life of running a farm should think again. But if you're after a life of simplistic happiness that the material modern world cannot provide, maybe farming is your answer.
Director Pettier followed a year in the family’s lives, capturing both the stark, stunning beauty of the landscape, and the brutally hard graft it takes just to survive. She single-handedly shot and directed the indie film, working alongside Producer Jan Cawood of Tin Man Films and editor Matt Dennis to develop more than 60 hours of footage into a feature-length film. Other members of the creative team included sound expert Chris Watson and composer James Burrell. The production has spanned more than four years and the post-production was completed with the help of international crowd funding.
“Addicted to Sheep has been a labour of love for our team and I’m delighted with the recognition of our work. It’s a great privilege to be able to present Addicted to Sheep with prestigious partners who really care about indie films including Picturehouse Cinemas, Tyneside Cinema, Bertha DocHouse amongst others. Thanks to the Hutchinson family it feels like a real achievement to now be able to share the film with a wide audience to show a world difficult to witness up close, what it’s like to be a tenant farmer, especially given the current headlines about the issues farmers are facing," said Director/Producer Magali Pettier.
While the mentioning of sheep may invoke the fashion connection to wool, apparently the off-white colour and coarseness of the Swaledale sheep wool prevent them from fetching high prices, according to Wikipedia, but its strong and durable properties make it suitable for carpets, rugs, and insulation. Nevertheless promoters said life-size sheep models made from the wool of The Hutchinsons’s flock, by the talented felted sheep maker Julia Knott from F’git-me-Knott Designs in Cumbria, will also be making their way to the city and go on the UK cinema tour too. Provenance Films has also announced that the feature documentary which had its World Premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015, was nominated for the Environmental Award.
Addicted to Sheep will be released by the North East based Provenance Films in UK cinemas and celebrate its London Premiere on Friday 28th August at Picturehouse Central.
You can watch the trailer by clicking here.