'Herdsman of the Sun' Review: The Documentarian Stays Away
Herdsmen of the Sun follows the rituals of the Woodaabe tribe in the Sahara. Werner Herzog mostly follows them unintrusively. He does provide commentary for clarity but other than that, mostly we watch the Wodaabe go about their day and their rituals. In a short fifty-two minutes, we come to know them rather well. Herzog isn’t interested in them individually, but instead as a community. Herzog captures a lot of memorable images, such as the facial expressions of the Wodaabe as they do the Gerewol celebration, which consists of the men of the tribe doing a beauty contest of sorts so they can find a match.
The documentary is a breezy, entertaining watch. The shots and music go hand-in-hand beautifully. Herzog fully captures a mood and time, that almost makes us feel like we are there. One comes out of the documentary feeling not only entertained, but also a bit enlightened. That’s something only the best documentaries can do. Herdsmen of the Sun isn’t exactly one of the best. It’s too short and we are left wanting, but in any case it has some amazing, impeccable qualities that make it something of a joy to watch.
Overall, it’s a bit difficult to say more about the film. It’s enigmatic but not the point of being obtuse or vague. Instead, Herzog lays out things quite clearly but we are not meant to judge, but to just watch. And as a director, Herzog makes that very easy. And through the distance he has provided us, it’s clear that he’s also not judging. He’s a witness that is just sharing with us what he sees.