Animals are the best way of qualifying the cinema of Pema Tseden. In his latest film, Old Dog
, dedicated to an old mastiff sheepdog prized by urban mafias, there is a foundational moment in his career as a film-maker: A sheep gets separated from the flock by a fence and, in one long shot, it tries to find a gap through which it can get back. The lost sheep runs to and fro in desperation around the fence that holds it, while the other sheep move off into the distance towards the horizon, and are gradually lost from view. A long shot lasting minutes, where no one says Cut
, and where reality bursts through with its full enigmatic charge. The Tibetan director insists: “I make works of fiction, not documentaries”, but the wayward sheep decries this: when reality knocks, the mise-en-scène
disappears, and the shot is held until required by reality. False fiction in that case.