Nestled among a rugged landscape of rocks, rubble and dust lives a small village that Wolf and Sheep follows in a docudrama style. The town and stories are based on the experiences of the films writer-director Shahrbanoo Sadat, who lived in the region the film is based on for seven years, later moving to Kabul at age 18 to study film-making. Sadat is youngest film-maker ever to be selected for the Cannes’ Cinefoundation Residency, which she achieved in 2011 at age 20 with her short film, Vice Versa One.

In Wolf and Sheep, she brings us face to face with a community of poor farmers and shepherds nestled among the mountains, in a small town far away from the Afghanistan we know about in the media. Ancient traditions and legends still live on, intact but fragile in the face of the ever-constant threat that hangs over the town. The film follows the everyday mundane life of the villagers, but primarily through the eyes of the children. Adults here remain on the margins, with most of the day-to-day tending of the flocks done by children, but despite their removal from the larger world, they are like kids anyway, with their friendships, cliques and outsiders. This is where the true charm of the film comes to life.

One of the girls, Sediqa, is believed to be cursed, with the other girls spinning gossipy tales about her. Alone in the hills Sediqa forms a friendship with one of the boys, Qodrat, the son of a recently deceased man and whose future in the village is at risk. His mother remarries and her new husband wants to send Qodrat and his siblings off to live with her sister in a distant town. The two bond over their outsider-status, making slingshots together and tending to the livestock.

These stories are reconstructed in an observational style that at times feels like a documentary. However, in contrast to these very real stories are moments of magical realism, illustrating the folklore that lives on in this local imagination. At several points throughout the film, we listen to stories of the Kashmiri wolf, a creature that walks on two feet. A green fairy leaves underneath the animal’s fury pelt. Sadat depicts both fairy and wolf as eerie presences, stalking the landscape by night. As the film concludes, the rumour of armed men heading towards the village represents a more metaphorical wolfish rapacity. This is a rather important point to the film – even this forgotten place is unsafe from the violence of Afghanistan. While the point of Wolf and Sheep is not political, this ending point sums up a story about just how innocent the locals are and contributes to a beautifully made film.

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CategoriesIssue 16 Reviews
Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.