Docpoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival


Shepherds of the Earth

The region of Lake Turkana, located in Kenya and Ethiopia, is considered to be “the Cradle of Humankind”. Among other finds, primate fossils from millions of years ago have been discovered in the region. But what about the region’s modern inhabitants and their relationship to their environment? Iiris Härmä, whose previous work includes the award-winning Leaving Africa, had the chance of joining Helsinki University’s researchers, Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares and Mar Cabeza, on their pre-pandemic trip to study the Daasanach people’s relationship to their environment through traditional animal tales. The researchers hope that storytelling would help to bridge the gap between people’s everyday lives and conservation efforts.

As the scientists get to know the tribe, their idealism begins to crumble. Instead of a harmonic relationship with nature, inferred from previous pastoralist literature, the researchers are faced with a much more complicated web involving sincere ignorance, clan conflicts, climate change, the legacy of colonialism and local tensions caused by the well-meaning establishment of Sibiloi National Park. The translator, Job, acts as an important mediator between the scientists and locals, himself yearning for better chances via education, but having to make safe choices to provide for his family. Along with preserving nature, preserving dialogue instead of dictation becomes an important theme in the film.

Liina Härkönen

Original Title: Luomakunnan vartijat
Language: English, Daasanach
Subtitles: English, Finnish
Length: 75 min
Age Limit: K12
Year: 2022
Production Country: Finland

Director: Iiris Härmä
Producer: Visa Koiso-Kanttila
Production Company: Guerilla Films
Screenplay: Iiris Härmä
Editing: Matti Näränen
Cinematographer: Visa Koiso-Kanttila
Music: Per Storby Jutbring
Sound Design: Janne Laine