THE ORPHANAGE is a Follow-up to Sadat’s WOLF AND SHEEP – The First Afghan Film made by Female Director and Winner at Cannes

1844 Entertainment releases  THE ORPHANAGE (Parwareshgah), via VOD platform Amazon Prime beginning March 2, 2021.

Reviewed by Ishrat Jahaiara Quazi: Shahrbanoo Sadat writes and directs a sequel to the Wolf and Sheep film series called The Orphanage. The movie takes us through the story of Afghan teens during the 1980s and especially follows Qodrat, one of the kids in the Wolf and Sheep film. 

The film starts off with an action scene from one of Amitabh Bachchan’s movies from the 80s and quickly transitions to ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ from Namak Halaal. The audience is dancing along to the song as the movie intros using a similar Bollywood-istic font and transitions to follow that aesthetic.

Qodrat(played by Qodratollah Qadiri) is seen enjoying the movie and, it’s clear that he’s obsessed with cinema as he sells movie tickets on the black market like a lot of Bollywood heroes would before there’s an action scene that takes place. He gets caught reselling these tickets and that’s when he gets put into a Soviet-run orphanage. That’s sort of where the story begins and continues as we see Qodrat and the other teens go through the Soviet-Afghan conflict in their countries.

It’s easy to believe that kids like Qodrat probably would benefit from having a home and resources like the ones that the orphanage provides but, at the same time, we witness a form of policing and authority that comes with living under a hierarchy. You can see this when one of the characters talks about wanting to live abroad because they don’t feel free at the place they’re at. Just because you’re given food and a place to live doesn’t necessarily mean everything else is fine. There is a historical context that I am lacking when watching this movie. It does help if you know a little bit about the politics of Soviet-Afghan relations but I don’t think it’s needed to understand the film on a base level. It’s a story of teens living through war and while all accounts of oppression aren’t the same, there’s an obvious sentiment that it’s horrible to live through war and oppression especially during a time when you’re supposed to enjoy life and let your mind wander as a young person.

The rest of the movie follows this format where Sadat combines a documentary-style film with the masala-style Bollywood storytelling that has existed even prior to the 80s. A lot of iconic songs and Hindi film scenes are used as rhetoric to show that Qodrat lives in this fantasy-world but the things he’s going through are very much real and dangerous. Even when there’s a serious scene where someone is getting shot, the scene turns into an action sequence from old Bollywood movies with dramatic songs and exaggerated portrayals of emotions from the characters. The child-like in the story helps Qodrat’s emotional state to navigate his life. We’re seeing the movie through his lens. That makes for an interesting watch and I haven’t seen anything like this. 

When it comes to keeping the 80s alive in the movie, I think Sadat does a great job in putting these iconic cultural components that existed in Kabul during that time. Amitabh Bachchan was like a legend during the 70s, 80s, and so on. And, to use reenactments to show the feelings that Qodrat was experiencing is so smart because I know growing up I would also imagine myself in these movie scenarios despite whatever hell was going on in life. It’s so much fun to see Qodrat and his crush have a montage with the song ‘Jane Kaise Kab Kahan’ from the Shakti(1982) film in the background. The way the film is shot with this grainy texture and bright colors takes you more into that era. This movie has that film festival vibe to it and it’s not so much commercial even though it uses a lot of commercial film references. And, there’s a war going on throughout the story but, to be very honest, it doesn’t feel like there is. Qodrat doesn’t really realize that there’s something serious going on until they return to Kabul from Russia and witnesses a death which he sees through this Bollywood-filter.

When you watch this movie, I think there’s this vibe that the songs and references are very random but, I quite like this style. I loved it so much! It brought back a lot of memories that I didn’t think would exist in this movie since I hadn’t read the summary before watching it. Also, keeping the same actor from the Wolf and Sheep film is another brilliant choice because the audience truly gets to follow the story of Qodrat through the film series. We’re actually getting to see him grow up in reality and in the film. I can’t wait to watch the next movie in this series and see what Qodrat is going to go through next.

  • Movie: The Orphanage
  • Written & Directed: Shahrbanoo Sadat.
  • Inspired by: Anwar Hashimi’s unpublished diary.

Starring:  Qodratollah Qadiri, Sediqa Rasuli, Masihullah Feraji Hasibullah Rasooli, Ahmad Fayaz Osmani, Ehsanullah Kharoti, Anwar Hashimi, Asadullah Kabiri, Fridoon Muradi, Karan Jeet Singh, Waris Muradi, Sediqa Rasuli, Abdul Rahman Formoli, Daria Gaiduk, Nahid Yakmanesh, Yama Yakmanesh, Arthur Köstler. 

  • Dialogue: Dari, Russian, Hindi-Urdu.
  • 90 minutes.
  • Festivals & Awards
  • Cannes International Film Festival – Directors’ Fortnight
  • Reykjavik Film Festival – Golden Puffin Award
  • Munich International Film Festival – CineCopro Competition
  • Brussels International Film Festival – International Competition
  • Odessa International Film Festival – International Competition
  • Sarajevo International Film Festival – Kinoscope
  • Haugesund International Film Festival – New Nordic Films
  • IndieBo Film Festival
  • Melbourne International Film Festival
    1. New Zealand International Film Festival

The Orphanage is part of a five-part film series by Shahrbanoo Sadat detailing the history of Afghanistan based on Anwar Hashimi’s unpublished autobiography. It began with her first feature The Wolf and the Sheep, about shepherd children in the mountains of central Afghanistan,which won the Jury Prize at the 2016 Cannes Film FestDirectors’ Fortnight. The third film Kabul Jane is soon to be produced with Adomeit Films. It will be the world’s first romantic comedy set in Afghanistan. “It’s a tribute to all the journalists in Afghanistan,” producer Katja Adomeit told VARIETY last week when the deal was announced, noting the alarming number of reporters who have been killed in the country in recent months.

Writer and Director Shahrbanoo Sadat was born in Iran and based in Kabul. Her debut feature Wolf and Sheep was developed with the Cannes Cinéfondation Residence in 2010 when Sadat was 20 years old, making her the youngest person ever selected for the program. Her films include The Orphanage (2019), Wolf and Sheep (Cannes Director’s Fortnight Winner, 2016), Who Wants to Be the Wolf? (2014), Not at Home (2013), Vice Versa One (2010), and A Smile for Life (2009).

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