Bells in the Mountains

Two hundred cows from the town of Ulle make the three-day journey up the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees mountains at the start of the summer.

  • Sebastian Lasaosa Rogers
  • Kyle Turgeon
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Esquilas en la montaña
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes 38 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 7, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    2,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • San Francisco Documentary Festival
    San Francisco
    United States
    June 4, 2017
    World Premiere
Director Biography - Sebastian Lasaosa Rogers

Sebastian is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in New York City. He grew up in Concord, MA, and graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University with a BA in Film Studies and Anthropology. While living in Nashville, Sebastian grew to love the South, where he first became involved with social justice activism and film production. Sebastian has directed and shot numerous documentary projects including films for the Southern Environmental Law Center, Dignidad Obrera, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the Fight for $15 campaign.

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Director Statement

Growing up I remember a cowbell with a wooden knocker hanging from a tree outside the front door of my home. This was my mother’s version of a doorbell. She brought the cowbell back from her first cousin Ramon’s farm in the north of Spain, her homeland. As a child, I could measure my growing-up by how much I needed to jump to ring the cowbell, which to this day I think of as a symbol representing childhood memory and my Spanish heritage. My mother would recount her own memories of spending the early summers of her youth with her cousins in the country and hearing the gonging and ringing of cowbells as the cows grazed nearby.

In 2009, I spent three weeks living with my family in Ulle, Spain. I helped on the farm clearing rocks from fields and shoveling manure, and I observed the more challenging task of herding cows and sheep from one pasture to another. After becoming interested in documentary filmmaking in college and inspired by the film Sweetgrass, I decided to return to Ulle five years later to document my cousins taking their 200 cows up to the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. My family in Ulle are the only farmers in the region around Jaca who maintain the practice of walking their herd on foot to higher and greener pastures for the summer, called the “trashumancia.” Having studied anthropology as well as film in college, I was interested in this ancient tradition that has been an important part of the history of the domestication of certain animals, as well as the history of my family in Spain.

I documented mostly cows and humans in observational long takes during eight days, half of which followed the trashumancia. The reward for the patience of this filming style, I found, was a heightened sensory experience that I hope both grounds the viewer in its specificity, reveals unanticipated moments of discovery, and allows for the time to appreciate as well as reflect and question what you see. My experience of this place, the land, the sounds of cowbells ringing, the animals and humans, their relationships, has stayed with me as it did with my mother. I am grateful for the generosity of my family in welcoming me into their world and for the chance to cultivate our relationship.