You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Wolf and Sheep’

The slim, slice-of-life drama “Wolf and Sheep” mixes naturalistic, ethnographic images with a thread of folkloric magical realism.

Sediqa Rasuli, Qodratollah Qadiri, Amina Musavi, Sahar Karimi, Masuma Hussaini, Mohammad Amin, Qorban Ali, Ali Khan Ataee. (Hazaragi dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5093990/

Winner of the Directors’ Fortnight’s top award, the art cinema prize, the slim, slice-of-life drama “Wolf and Sheep” mixes naturalistic, ethnographic images with an appealing thread of folkloric magical realism. The action is set in an Afghan village that 26-year-old tyro director-writer Shahrbanoo Sadat, Afghanistan’s first-ever female feature helmer, was forced to re-create in the dusty mountains of neighboring Tajikistan due to security concerns for her mostly foreign crew — and the presence in the tale of a naked, green, female fairy. Sadat also imported 38 Hazaragi-speaking villagers, adults and children, who play versions of themselves. Although more compelling on a visual level than a narrative one, the movie represents an enticing festival and niche event item, as well as a vision of Sadat’s homeland that is far different from what the media normally depicts.

Inspired by the remote, rural outpost in central Afghanistan where the filmmaker spent her teenage years feeling like an outsider, the film immediately establishes the dynamic of a place out of time, a spot where not much happens and where everyone knows everyone else’s business and discusses it ad infinitum. It is also a village where the sexes remain very much segregated. The women cook, clean and dry dung patties at home while affairs such as funerals, animal husbandry (and sacrifices) and deciding justice are managed outdoors, man to man.

The local children, who herd flocks of goats and sheep up and down the mountain each day, also cleave into same-sex groups. As the animals graze, their bells tinkling in the distance, a group of girls talks about marriage and pretends to smoke cigarettes, while the roughhousing boys practice with their slingshots and exchange surprisingly vulgar insults. Even among such a tiny population there are cliques: The other girls shun Sediqa (Sediqa Rasuli), a melancholy-looking youngster, chattering that Sediqa’s grandmother became blind after nursing a snake.

Young Qodrat (Qodratollah Qadiri), whose father’s funeral takes place in the film’s opening moments, also is the subject of gossip when his mother becomes the third wife of a local man who doesn’t want to keep her kids. One day while Qodrat is brooding, he runs into Sediqa and instructs her on the fine art of slingshot braiding. Sharing a bond as outsiders, the two youngsters explore the mountainside together a few times, but their friendship isn’t fated to continue.

Since the pace of village life is slow and repetitive, it’s difficult to discern how much time passes, but certain incidents stand out. At one point, a slingshot novice accidentally (but bloodily) puts out another boy’s eye, and the injured youth’s father demands justice in the form of a bull. At another point, an unseen wolf attacks and kills some of the livestock, and the angry flock owners beat the little shepherds.

In contrast with her representation of mundane daily life, Sadat inserts some striking moments of magical realism, illustrating the folklore that lives large in the local imagination. At several points, the men and boys repeat the tale of the Kashmiri wolf, a creature that walks on two feet. A green fairy lives underneath the animal’s furry pelt. She was once captured by a felonious miller and forced to become his wife, but she managed to escape. Sadat depicts both fairy and wolf as eerie presences, stalking the landscape by night. Near the film’s conclusion, the rumor of armed men heading toward the village represents a more metaphorical wolfish rapacity.

Made on a modest budget (that includes 413 crowd-sourced contributions), the film is pleasing to the eye, with the non-professional actors wearing their own colorful clothing. There’s no production designer credit; per Danish producer Katja Adomeit, director Sadat designed the mud-and-stone dwellings herself, which workers then built in Tajikistan. Strong sound design also contributes to the you-are-there ambience.

Film Review: 'Wolf and Sheep'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors’ Fortnight), May 16, 2016. Running time: 84 MIN.

Production: (Denmark-France-Afghanistan-Sweden) An Adomeit Film production in co-production with La Fabrica Nocturna Prods., Film Väst, Zentropa Sweden, Wolf Pictures, made in collaboration with New Danish Screen, supported by Eurimages, the Danish Film Institute, with the participation of Aide Aux Cinemas Du Monde, Centre National du Cinema et de l’Image Animee – Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres et du Developpement Intl., Institute Français, with support from Cinereach, Visions Sud Est, SDC, Creative Europe Media, Filmwerkstatt Kiel/Filmforderung Hamburg Schleswig Holstein, the Hubert Bals Fund of the Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam, Center for Culture & Development, Cinefondation, Wouter Barendrecht Film Foundation and Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum, Institut Français d’Afghanistan, the French Embassy in Afghanistan, Danish Arts Foundation. (International sales: Alpha Violet, Paris.) Produced by Katja Adomeit. Co-producers, Xavier Rocher, Marina Perales Marhuenda, Madeleine Ekman, Simon Perry, Shahrbanoo Sadat.

Crew: Directed, written by Shahrbanoo Sadat, inspired by Anwar Hashimi’s unpublished diary. Camera (color), Virginie Surdej; editor, Alexandra Strauss; sound, Sigrid Dpa Jensen; sound designers, Thomas Jaeger, Thomas Arent.

With: Sediqa Rasuli, Qodratollah Qadiri, Amina Musavi, Sahar Karimi, Masuma Hussaini, Mohammad Amin, Qorban Ali, Ali Khan Ataee. (Hazaragi dialogue)

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content