Walking among the ‘Herd’

Michel Negreponte


Walking among the ‘Herd’

‘Herd,” a film by Michel Negreponte, will be screening at The Norfolk Library on Saturday April 13 at 5:30 p.m. This mesmerizing documentary investigates the relationship between humans and other sentient beings by following a herd of shaggy Belted Galloway cattle through a little more than a year of their lives.

Negreponte and his wife have had a second home just outside of Livingston Manor, in the southwest corner of the Catskills, for many years. Like many during the pandemic, they moved up north for what they thought would be a few weeks, and now seldom return to their city dwelling. Adjacent to their property is a privately owned farm and when a herd of Belted Galloways arrived, Negreponte realized the subject of his new film.

“You know, I’ve never made a nature documentary,” Negreponte shared. “That’s not really my thing, but once I found myself in upstate New York during the pandemic, I made several short films about the environment, about the land around me. They were mini essays, meditations. One of them was about my dog. That kind of led me into this longer project, which I also call an essay film. I’d like to say it’s a personal essay film, and a meditation.”

Early in the film, with the background of a heartbeat as soundtrack, a quote comes across the screen explaining, “Cows are adagio. 65 to 75 beats per minute.” This deliberate slowing down of pace lends a quiet to the narrative and allows for profound reflections on themes of motherhood, community, and humanity’s place in the natural world. “I think that the subject matter and the cows asked for a particularly delicate and peaceful approach. That is their temperament and their pace, and I certainly appreciate the vibe they give out,” Negreponte added.

Filmed throughout 2022, the film is chronological, following the herd through an erratic winter and the seasons of birth and death.

“It’s a very organic process,” said Negreponte of his technique of editing while filming. “It’s a process that I’ve developed over many years of making films and it suits the way I work.”

Using one camera, long shots linger on the lumbering giants as they navigate harsh weather, calve their young, protect, fight, and play with one another. Negreponte filmed parts of his own body in moments, “breaking the fourth wall,” as he explained, a technique that adds to the intimacy.

Throughout the film, there are other clips interspersed that Negreponte calls, “archival sections,” though not all the footage is historical. There are images of Hitler juxtaposed with images of Ghandi. The hunting and eventual extinction of wild Buffalo in the American West, and images showing reverence for cows in ancient cultures. From the horrors of industrial farming and animal exploitation to the clear communication and collective consciousness present, “Herd” confronts the viewer with humanity’s capacity for both cruelty and compassion.

By inviting audiences to slow down and reconnect with the natural world, “Herd” serves as a timely reminder of the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Negreponte shared, “I can’t help but think that people may think twice about their eating habits. I certainly think we can do better and adjust our diets so we’re less cruel to the animals around us.”

The owners of the farm have decided that the cattle are now pets, due in large part to the effect that “Herd” has had on them. The cows will now be used primarily to fertilize the fields.


Latest News

Inspiring artistic inspiration at the Art Nest in Wassaic

Left to right: Emi Night (Lead Educator), Luna Reynolds (Intern), Jill Winsby-Fein (Education Coordinator).

Natalia Zukerman

The Wassaic Art Project offers a free, weekly drop-in art class for kids aged K-12 and their families every Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m. The Art Nest, as it’s called, is a light, airy, welcoming space perched on the floor of the windy old mill building where weekly offerings in a variety of different media lead by professional artists offer children the chance for exploration and expression. Here, children of all ages and their families are invited to immerse themselves in the creative process while fostering community, igniting imaginations, and forging connections.

Emi Night began as the Lead Educator at The Art Nest in January 2024. She studied painting at Indiana University and songwriting at Goddard College in Vermont and is both a visual artist and the lead songwriter and singer in a band called Strawberry Runners.

Keep ReadingShow less
Weaving and stitching at Kent Arts Association

A detail from a fabric-crafted wall mural by Carlos Biernnay at the annual Kent Arts Association fiber arts show.

Alexander Wilburn

The Kent Arts Association, which last summer celebrated 100 years since its founding, unveiled its newest group show on Friday, May 11. Titled “Working the Angles,” the exhibition gathers the work of textile artists who have presented fiber-based quilts, landscapes, abstracts, and mural-sized illustrations. The most prominently displayed installation of fiber art takes up the majority of the association’s first floor on South Main Street.

Bridgeport-based artist Carlos Biernnay was born in Chile under the rule of the late military dictator Augusto Pinochet, but his large-scale work is imbued with fantasy instead of suffering. His mix of influences seems to include Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s popular German libretto “The Magic Flute” — specifically The Queen of the Night — as well as Lewis Carol’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” The Tudor Court, tantalizing mermaids and exotic flora.

Keep ReadingShow less
Let there be Night: How light pollution harms migrating birds
Alison Robey

If last month’s solar eclipse taught me anything, it’s that we all still love seeing cool stuff in the sky. I don’t think we realize how fast astronomical wonders are fading out of sight: studies show that our night skies grow about 10% brighter every year, and the number of visible stars plummets as a result. At this rate, someone born 18 years ago to a sky with 250 visible stars would now find only 100 remaining.

Vanishing stars may feel like just a poetic tragedy, but as I crouch over yet another dead Wood Thrush on my morning commute, the consequences of light pollution feel very real. Wincing, I snap a photo of the tawny feathers splayed around his broken neck on the asphalt.

Keep ReadingShow less