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Culture in France

'Wolf and Sheep', an antidote to films about violence in Afghanistan

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Still from 'Wolf and Sheep' by Shahrbanoo Sadat
Still from 'Wolf and Sheep' by Shahrbanoo Sadat DR

Wolf and Sheep is a debut feature film by Shahrbanoo Sadat which first screened internationally at the Director’s Fortnight in Cannes in 2016. It won The Art Award given by the International Confederation of Art Cinemas.

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Parched hilly landscapes bathed in sun, Wolf and Sheep is set among ordinary sheep and goat herding Hazara villagers in the centre of Afghanistan, in Bamyan province.

The focus is on the children shepherds and shepherdesses through whom Sadat shows the trial and tribulations of growing up and of dealing with decisions of adults, like whom they will most probably become in the near future. Written into the film script, and common to many regions, is a local fairy-tale which adds a mysterious and curious contrast to rural realism.

It’s a very political thing to make a film with Hazara people, because they have never had the opportunity to be shown. They are always backstage… I know their stories.

Shahrbanoo Sadat

Story-tellers and all, this is the community in which Sadat grew up from the age of 11 to 18, after having lived in a city in Iran where her parents had made their home. She looks back at life in part of the country few talk about or show outside.

She said that it took her several years to muster enough finances to make Wolf and Sheep.

"I received a lot of ‘nos’ because people didn’t really understand how a film from Afghanistan was not portraying a war country," revealed Sadat.

She said the award after the screening at the Director’s Fortnight gave the film the push it needed.

It released in cinemas in France at the end of November, after being selected for some leading film festivals including the Fast Forward programme in the major South Korean Busan festival and Sao Paolo’s festival in Brazil.

More releases are expected. The Kabul-based director is working on a project consisting of a series of five films based on the 800 pages of her close friend Anwar Hashimi’s diaries which she describes as a 40 year-history of Afghanistan.

"It talks in a simple way about human beings, but in the background it gives a lot of information about the political situation in Afghanistan, about the social situation at that time," Sadat says.

Although the idea is to constitute a complete body of work, each film she says will stand alone. She plans to shoot the next one in Poland. This chapter is set at the time of Soviet occupation, when she says every day life was more free in many ways, and adds, "I can shoot it anywhere."

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