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In 2016, the young Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat won a prize at the Directors’ fortnight in Cannes for her quasi-autobiographical debut Wolf and Sheep, about shepherd children in the mountains of central Afghanistan. Now Sadat, who is 29, has directed a sequel, following the life of one of these children: Quodrat, now a teenager and still played by the same non-professional, Quodratollah Qadiri.
He is shown living in Kabul during the Russian occupation in 1981. Both his parents are dead. Movie-mad and obsessed with Bollywood pictures, Quodrat is arrested for selling cinema tickets on the black market, and he is made to live in a Soviet-run orphanage, where the lessons are in Russian. There is bullying and intrigue, but also opportunities for adventure.
The Orphanage is a terrific child’s-eye movie, bustling with freshness and old-fashioned storytelling gusto. I loved the fantasy Bollywood sequences, but also the purely realist incidents, including an amazing scene where Quodrat and the boys come across a burnt-out Soviet tank in the mountains and loot it for bullets and military gear.
There is also a funny and absorbing interlude when selected children are allowed on a trip to Moscow; they play chess with state-of-the-art USSR computers and even visit Lenin’s tomb: the culture-shock impact is nicely managed. When they return to Kabul, however, things are disturbingly different and there is a rumour that the Soviets are on the way out.
There is such energy and vigour and openness in this movie. If Sadat continues with Quodrat’s life story, there could be something like Truffaut going on here, blended with the poetic gentleness of Kiarostami. Sadat is a film-maker to watch.
• The Orphanage is available on Mubi.
Source: The Guardian
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