(Spain, 74 min.)
Dir. Pau Faus
Programme: World Showcase (North American Premiere)
Barcelona-based filmmaker and activist Pau Faus made waves with his medium-length film Sí se puede. Siete días en PAH Barcelona (2014) and his award-winning debut feature Ada for Mayor (2016). With Fauna, Faus’ latest feature, he steps away from the narratives of urban activism that have been the centre of his previous works.
Fauna follows two parallel insights into the contemporary lives of animals. On the outskirts of Barcelona, an aging shepherd holds on to ancestral traditions in his dying trade. Across the valley sits a sterile, futuristic facility tasked with animal testing in pursuit of a COVID-19 vaccine. The laboratory looms over the shepherd’s grazing grounds, involuntarily drawing the two into a stark comparison that Faus poetically explores.
The camera offers viewers the same unassuming, distant gaze of the opposing worlds that it captures. Repetitive scenes of scientists herding animals through sterile hallways highlight the cruel distance of laboratory testing. Outside the lab’s windows, the shepherd and his flock navigate rich and vast forests that are seemingly untouched beyond the sheep’s graze. Following tried and true traditions, Faus’ captures the shepherd in candid harmony with his animals.
What reveals itself through Faus’ observational style is a through line between the protagonists: a deep alienation from the uncontrollable spiral of Anthropocene-era society and its desire to control nature. Through the shepherd’s medical issues and the trials of the scientists, Faus expertly navigates through the existential questions tolling the minds of his subjects. At the same time, Fauna observes how both humans and non-human animals are bound by developments in technology. On one hand, we see the farmer realizing the end for a way of life. On the other, we see scientists working tirelessly for humanity, all the while enjoying the view of the farm from afar, unawares of the story unfolding in those very fields.
Fauna screened at Hot Docs 2023.
Get more coverage from this year’s festival here.