Sheep addicts see film screened for the first time

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A FILMMAKER rang in the Year of the Sheep with the first cinema screening of her crowd-funded documentary on the world of hill farming.

Sunderland graduate Magali Pettier raised more than £8,000 from scores of donors to complete work on her unique documentary Addicted to Sheep, which documents the lives of a North East farming family.

Donations came from as far Australia, with dozens of individuals and organisations also pitching in to help complete the 85-minute film.

Some of those who helped make the film happen were treated to a special preview of the documentary at the Durham Gala Theatre, which also marked Chinese New Year.

“It was great to hear laughs from the audience and it’s a very different experience to seeing the film on a TV screen in a small room,” said Magali.

“We’re a small team but we’re hoping that things will happen with this film. We’re hoping it will be a word-of-mouth thing.

“We’re in discussions with the BBC and we have had promise from film festivals fro as far away as Arizona and as near as the Tyneside Cinema.

“We’re hoping there’s an international audience for this film.”

Addicted to Sheep chronicles the lives of Tom and Kay Hutchinson and their three school-age children on the Raby Estate in County Durham.

Magali, a photography, video and digital imaging graduate from Sunderland University, spent three seasons filming the family, aiming to show the family’s emotional commitment to their work, their bond with the landscape and their quest for an ever-better flock of Swaledale sheep

The filmmaker grew up on her family’s farm in Brittany, France, and knows how the work can be so demanding and relentless in all weathers, with a limited financial reward.

Magali, said: “I was brought up on a dairy farm in Brittany and always wanted to raise the profile of farmers.

“I wanted to help them gain the respect I felt they deserved.

“I always had a fascination with the sense that we walk in the footsteps of others who have lived these lives before. In France, tenant farmers are part of the past, and when I found out that they still existed here I was intrigued to know why anyone would opt for this lifestyle when their future may seem so uncertain.”

The Hutchinson family joined Magali at the screening in Durham, and took part in a question and answer session at the end.

Tom and Kay said their main concern was that the film fairly represented their community.

Tom said: ““The reaction has been very good from the neighbours. Nobody has smashed anything or set fire to anything.

“Magali has represented the area pretty accurately for what we do and who we are.”

•To find out more about how you can support Addicted to Sheep, visit http://www.addictedtosheep.com/supportus/.