“The Moo Man” directors Andy Heathcote and Heike Bachelier hail from England and Germany, and have backgrounds in photography and philosophy, respectively. Their first documentary, “The Lost World of Mr. Hardy,” played in UK cinemas, and Bachelier’s “Feindberührung” for German TV networks ZDF won the PRIX EUROPA for Best Feature Doc in 2011. Of working together on “Mr. Hardy,” Heathcote says, “[It] gave us so much freedom to just follow our noses and now this one ‘The Moo Man’ has taught us so, so much about story, character and emotions. DIY was the best thing we ever did.”
What it’s about: A year in the life of dairy farmer Steve, scene stealing Ida (queen of the herd), and a supporting cast of 55 cows. When Ida falls ill, Steve’s optimism is challenged and their whole way of life is at stake.
Director Heathcote says: “You don’t have to spend long on a farm before you realise that what they are really about is the cycle of life. This farm is a very traditional one with wonderful welfare standards, yet it is still all about life and death. The farm is very often beautiful and awe inspiring but sometimes it is ugly and harrowing. Steve the farmer has a wonderful relationship with his animals, you couldn’t wish for more, but underneath there is always the potential question of – ‘is it right the way we treat animals for food? Is it a one way thing?’ The film does not decide this for you, it’s your shout to make up your own mind. However what I really hope the film also conveys, is something of the world from the cows point of view, that there is something in it for the cows too. If a farm is well run and operates not just for the bottom line, the cows are less stressed and happier animals. That allows their characteristics start to come through and we can see them as individual animals, just as Steve the farmer does every day. There’s no avoiding the pun – this is a moo-vie!”
Heathcote, on their biggest challenges: “Stamina and pace – I had to keep telling myself this is not a sprint but a marathon. When you are a couple of years into a project, you have fallen in love with the subject; you’re in deep and you’ve got great material but the you just cannot make the story work. You see no way out and you’re log-jammed. That is when it’s tough. Every film I have ever made always hits this point. It’s where you think, this is the one which is just not going to work, I’ve failed.’ Experience tells you, you will get pass this point, but on this film I had the block for a year and just could not get past. It was Heike Bachelier the co-director and editor who really cracked the story though, and through her we got to where we are today.”
What he hope Sundance audiences take away: “I’d love it if Sundance audiences could walk away from ‘The Moo Man’ with a little more understanding and respect for the humble cow, as well as the small sustainable farmer. By supporting the small guys, those not just chasing the bottom line, we are supporting a better way to treat animals too.”
Inspirations: “Etre et Avoir (To Be and To Have)”
What’s next: ‘The Moo Man’ is an observational piece but there is also a much bigger, factual story out there about the whole global dairy industry, the big processors and what they do to our food. The people we have met in this film and the stories they have told us, means that this, our next story, is something we just have to do. However this time it is definitely, absolutely not going to take four years to make!”
Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.