Of Sheep and Men offers a sombre slice-of-life story, shining a light on the lives of sheep in Algeria, and the men who own them. (The documentary fully delivers on the expectations of its title, with sheep occupying almost every single frame.) The men in question are 16-year-old bus conductor Habib, who hopes to train his ram El Bouq to fight, and 42-year-old Sami who capitalises on the slaughter of sheep for Eid. Both are testosterone-filled environments, equal in violence and brutality, to the possible discomfort of the viewer. The film keeps most of its focus on the ram fighting, only for it to switch the subject to slaughter when Habib’s ram is not very successful in fighting. It’s a subtle but ominious move, twisting the knife in the wound and cementing El Bouq’s fate in place.
Director Karim Sayad keeps the camera intimately close to its subject, whether that be the men or the sheep. Avoiding the option of making a big deal of the events covered, the documentary ends up being very subdued and so, while it partly works, the pacing feels rather slow even for its 78 minute runtime. Ultimately, the film explores the opposite ends of the bleak spectrum that sheep face in Algeria to varying degrees of success.
Public Screenings: Sept 11 3:30 pm, Sept 16 9:45 am