Killing the Shepherd (2021) Film Review

Killing the Shepherd is an important film. 

Perhaps you won’t accept its subtle lack of depth regarding some of the conflicts, but in relation to the issue it reveals, it’s an impressive start. It’s informative enough as it allows itself to be, and it doesn’t dare to shy away from the noteworthy, yet tragic elements of the story. 

However, this isn’t what makes it important. 

It’s the fact that Killing the Shepherd goes further the morally flammable question that’s brought to mind in its first minutes. In Africa, things are different. You may support a cause behind your cellphone when you’re sitting in a coffee shop. Or you may rant about it as well. But you will never know the reality of the situation unless you’re where the events take place. And trust me, it’s quite a different game.

In a remote community in Africa, poaching has rendered the site as “depleted”. There’s barely any wildlife on the site. A woman chief has expressed her concern to a safari operator who sees the problem first hand and decides to act. Of course, it won’t be an easy task.

The area is full of local legends, violence and uncanny tradition. Crime is constant, poaching is a lifestyle and changing the mindset seems like too much of a challenge. Hope helps, but in this wasteland dominated by poverty ideas aren’t enough. And the opposition to progress and improvement is constantly shifting to take the shape of a whole new different monster.

Directed by Thomas Opre, Killing the Shepherd goes deep where its environment allows it to go. The film never fails to shed light on important matters, but it feels limited in some of the questions it poses. This isn’t an easy film to watch. But I’m quite sure it couldn’t have been easy to make. Death is too much of an acceptable outcome in this place, and fear has to be part of the general feeling you get when telling these stories. 

Some of the most important figures in the story are part of something common in these places: from witchcraft to government intervention, everything is at stake all the time in these places. And hope comes from a powerful and controversial comment that not many will understand, including me at some point. Hunting has been a reality in this part of the world for centuries. And sometimes it helps the communities survive.

This reeks of another conversation that has to do with the unnecessary growth of Earth’s population. But it’s a conversation nonetheless, one that needs to take place. How much longer can we sustain a system that’s morally ambiguous and doesn’t allow for some messages to come through in a daily discussion? We need to listen. And with Killing the Shepherd you can be part of an expose that dares to go from wildlife conservation to human rights in a millisecond. Both issues are part of the same scheme that’s been running in this remote community. One that needs to change as soon as possible.

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Federico Furzan

Founder of Screentology. Member of the OFCS. RT Certified Critic

Dog dad.

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