Flocking to Sheffield’s “Cannes for Documentaries” – showtime for sheep on film

Members of a Pennine sheep-farming family are taking a rare break from the hills for the world premiere of a film about their lives – accompanied by life-size sheep models made from the wool of their flock.

The Hutchinsons and their real sheep star in the visually stunning 85-minute film Addicted to Sheep, being screened on 6 and 9 June at Sheffield Doc/Fest, the UK's premier documentary and digital media festival – the Cannes for documentary-makers and enthusiasts. The stirring film captures a year in the life of the tenant farming family who try to breed the perfect Swaledale sheep.

They and the film’s producers are looking for a ‘Triple Lammy’ – because sheep are riding high on the film festival circuit this summer. At Cannes, the Un Certain Regard category featured two films about sheep-farming: Ram, an Icelandic comedy, which won, and Lamb, about an Ethiopian family, one of the runners-up. Addicted to Sheep is a contender for the Environmental Award at Sheffield Doc/Fest to be considered by a distinguished international jury.

And because the actual yows and tups (females and males) would not feel at home in the centre of Sheffield, they have donated the wool off their own backs to make sheep stand-ins to accompany the film-makers and farmers, Tom and Kay Hutchinson and their three children on a 24-hour tour around the city centre.

The models are the work of Cumbria designer Julia Knott, who specialises in creating life-like figures, particularly of Swaledales and Lakeland Herdwicks, after she washes and processes the natural wool. She even gives them an authentic smit mark – a coloured splash – on their backs to identify the farm they belong to.

The independent film is the first feature length production for north-east based Co-producers Magali Pettier and Jan Cawood who are delighted that their work has been selected for one of the festival’s special award categories, for screening to worldwide representatives of film and broadcast industries and documentary fans.

Shot entirely by Magali on the Raby Estate in the raw but beautiful landscape of Upper Teesdale, it captures the family’s dedicated round-the-clock care of their pedigree Swaledale sheep, the slog and the laugh-out-loud funny and moving moments. It portrays Dales life through the farming children at school, shows and auctions, shearing, lambing, and the interplay of people, animals, landscape and the elements, typical of high fells around the UK and further afield.

Kay and Tom rarely get away from the farm. A short-break for them is usually a day at a sheep show in a different dale, so a film festival is entirely new ground for them. Tom said: “This has all been an amazing experience for us, and we think people from any walk of life, city or country folk, will find the film enjoyable and eye-opening.”

· Addicted To Sheep is screened on 6 June (12.30 PBS America Showroom 3) & 9 June (6pm ITN Source Showroom 4). Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with Director Magali Pettier. The Awards ceremony is at 11am 10 June in the Crucible Theatre.

· The Hutchinson family, film-makers and the ‘sheep’ will also join the North-East delegation for drinks to celebrate the World Premiere of Addicted to Sheep at an event sponsored by Northern Film and Media in the Festival Lounge on Tudor Square on Saturday 6th June from 7.15pm to 8.45pm.

· A number of cinema tickets are available to non-delegates to purchase directly online here https://sheffdocfest.com/films/5766