An Outsider's Observations

INTERVIEW. Afghan director Shahrbanoo Sadat's first feature, Danish-produced "Wolf and Sheep," was inspired by her feeling of being an outsider during her childhood in a small isolated village in Central Afghanistan. Her goal was to tell a story that doesn't revolve around war, the election, or other political issues dominating the media, but depicts Afghan everyday life as she knows it. The film is selected for Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival.

WOLF-AND-SHEEP-credit-Virgi

"Wolf and Sheep". Photo: Virginie Surdej

When Sharhbanoo Sadat, 11 at the time, moved with her family from Teheran, Iran, to a small village in the Bamyan Province in Central Afghanistan in 2001, she felt all alone in the world. Her parents were Afghan refugees and were thrilled to return to their childhood home after 40 years. But for Sadat, the transition from big city to village was overwhelming. While her older siblings except one sister were married, she had to stay at home, because there was no girls' school in the area. There was also no TV, radio or mobile phones. So for three years, before she finally got accepted to a boys' high school a three-hour mountain climb away, it was mostly her and the mountains.

When I watched other films about Afghanistan, I always missed something. I know it's a cliché, but I wanted to show the real Afghanistan.

"I felt lost and totally disconnected from everyone. I was in a different culture, and I couldn't really communicate. I had no friends, because I was speaking with a Persian accent. I couldn’t wear my glasses, because people there think only blind people wear glasses, and I was scared it would make me even more of an outsider. I felt stuck and was thinking that I would never get out of there," Sadat, 26 today, remembers.

Seven years of collecting stories

She did get out: At 18, she moved to Kabul to study Cinema and Theater, watched all the films she didn't have access to before and fell in love with directing when she attended a French documentary workshop for young Afghan filmmakers, Atelier Varan Kabul. Her first short "Vice Versa One" was selected at Directors' Fortnight at Cannes in 2011 and was shown at MOMA. She made her next film in CPH:DOX' initiative DOX:LAB, where she was set up with her now-producer Katja Adomeit. The result, "Not at Home," was selected for Rotterdam Film Festival. It was a whole new world. But looking back, she appreciates the perspective and observations her seven years in the village gave her.

"After I came to Kabul and started to read books and watch films, I realised I had a different look on society," she says. "I asked myself where that vision was coming from. At the time, it was painful, but I learned so much from living in the village. I was an outsider, but I was always watching other people and learning about every little thing in people's lives – and how everyone got to know every private detail, since nothing was private there. It was seven years of collecting stories."

 

Sadat's first feature film, "Wolf and Sheep," produced by Danish-based Katja Adomeit, takes place in a rural village like the one Sadat grew up in and follows a group of shepherd children in the mountains. The boys practice with their slings to fight wolves, while the girls smoke secretly and play wedding. They gossip about 11-year-old Sediqa, an outsider, whom they think is cursed. Finally, she makes friends with 11-year Qodrat, who becomes a gossip topic, after his mother remarries with an old man with two wives. The story is inspired by a combination of Sadat's own childhood and the childhood of her best friend, Anwar Hashimi, who lived in the same village before Sadat and had a similar experience of becoming an outsider after his mother remarried.

"When we talked about the village, it was like we were living there in the same time. Nothing had changed. The way people were thinking, and the way they acted. I was an outsider. And he was an outsider. But not in the same time. In the story, I created a fictional time where we lived together."

WolfAndSheep3
"Wolf and Sheep" Photo: Virginie Surdej

Afghan life away from war and politics

Afghan cinema, explains Sadat, was popular in the 80's, although in her view, they were rather propagandistic. In the 90's, the Taliban shot all art down. But in 2001, when the Americans entered the country, the international community helped establish a new cinema. Filmmakers from other countries came in, and foreign embassies funded programmes for young Afghan filmmakers. With the money, however, also came a subject. "We would get 10 films about human rights and 10 films about the election. There was nothing personal in there," says Sadat. 

"When I watched other films about Afghanistan, I always missed something. I know it's a cliché, but I wanted to show the real Afghanistan. I wasn't sure how to make a good film, but I knew what I didn't want to make a film about. Women's rights, the election and bombings were all on my blacklist. I wanted a local to see it and say, 'That's my life'.

With all the emphasis Sadat placed on depicting the 'real' Afghanistan, it was quite a blow when she was forced to give up shooting the film in Afghanistan because of the security situation. "I had an international team with me, and I couldn't guarantee their safety," she explains. "It was election time in 2014, and there were explosions in supermarkets and cafes every day. I lost my hearing on one ear, because I was so close to an explosion. I couldn't take that risk for others. But it was a big challenge for me as a person who always criticise other films for not being 'real'."

WolfAndSheep2
"Wolf and Sheep". Photo: Virginie Surdej

Building an Afghan village

Sadat and her Danish producer Katja Adomeit decided to shoot in Tajikistan, north of the Afghan border, where the scenery looked like Central Afghanistan. The houses, though, looked completely different, and the people spoke with a different accent. They solution became to build an entire village and bring in an Afghan cast, whom she only got visas for after months of persuasion at the Tajik embassy.

Sadat started casting the children from "Wolf and Sheep" by going to a school and point out the pupils who looked right. "I never cast with video, because the kids are so bad that I'm convinced it won't work. But that's not true – it's just because it's their first time in front of a camera. I know there's another character in there, so I always pick from their faces and work with them," she says.

To convince their parents to let their children go, she brought them along for the adult parts. "I just wanted people who knew the culture, spoke the language and were willing to travel."

She loved working with the children, directing without a script, making them improvise their lines from a situation she created and just letting the camera roll. "They constantly surprised me. I never felt like I was doing a film, I was just having fun with these kids. The sentences they came up with were so funny, and I was happy no one else could understand what they said, because everyone would just be laughing," Sadat says, referring to her international crew that includes Polish director of photography Virginie Surdej, Danish sound recordist Sigrid DPA Jensen, Danish sound designers and mixers Thomas Jæger and Thomas Arent, French editor Alexandra Strauss, French assistant director Samantha Mialet and the only Afghan crew member, second assistant director Anwar Hashimi.

"Wolf and Sheep" is produced by Katja Adomeit from Adomeit Film and is backed by the Danish Film Institute's talent scheme New Danish Screen. The film is co-produced by La Fabrica Nocturna (France), Wolf Pictures (Afghanistan), Zentropa International Sweden (Sweden) and Film Väst (Sweden).

WOLF-AND-SHEEP_450_2
"Woolf and Sheep" Photo: Virginie Surdej

Nyheder fra dfi.dk

/om Cannes 2016

Dansk premiere på The Neon Demon

Dansk premiere på The Neon Demon

9. juni 2016 | Af Redaktionen PREMIERE. The Neon Demon har allerede imponeret med sin visuelle stil og affødt stærke holdninger. Fra torsdag den 9. juni får det danske publikum lov til selv at se N...
Salg i Cannes

Salg i Cannes

25. maj 2016 | Af Freja Dam CANNES. Lars von Triers The House That Jack Built , Ole Bornedals Dræberne fra Nibe og Andreas Johnsens BUGS var blandt de danske sællerter på Cannes festivalens marked...
The Neon Demon deler vandene

The Neon Demon deler vandene

20. maj 2016 CANNES. Skal man hyle eller juble? De danske og internationale anmeldere er enige om, at overfladen i The Neon Demon er betagende, men ikke helt om, hvad der gemmer sig under. Der b...
Wolf and Sheep vinder i Cannes

Wolf and Sheep vinder i Cannes

20. maj 2016 | Af Lars Fiil-Jensen Shahrbanoo Sadats danskproducerede Wolf and Sheep har her til aften vundet hovedprisen i programmet Quinzaine des Realisateurs / Directors' Fortnight i Cannes...
Skubber grænserne med Refn

Skubber grænserne med Refn

18. maj 2016 | Af Redaktionen INTERVIEW. Jeg er nødt til at føle, at vi udforsker grænserne for, hvad der er gjort før, siger producer Lene Børglum om sit kreative partnerskab med Nicolas Winding R...
En outsiders observationer

En outsiders observationer

13. maj 2016 | Af Freja Dam INTERVIEW. Den afghanske instruktør Shahrbanoo Sadat ønskede med sin danskproducerede debutspillefilm Wolf and Sheep at fortælle en historie, der ikke handler om krig, v...
Mor-datter-drama i virtual reality

Mor-datter-drama i virtual reality

12. maj 2016 | Af Lars Fiil-Jensen Johan Knattrup Jensen og Mads Damsbo deltager i Cannes' NEXT-program med virtual reality-filmen Ewa, der følger en piges liv fra fødsel til voksenliv og giver en...
Besættelsen af skønhed

Besættelsen af skønhed

12. maj 2016 | Af Redaktionen INTERVIEW. Skønhed er ikke alt. Det er det eneste, siger en karakter i Nicolas Winding Refns The Neon Demon, som følger en ung modelspires barske møde med modebranchen...
At gå over grænsen giver gode resultater

At gå over grænsen giver gode resultater

12. maj 2016 | Af Jonas Varsted Kirkegaard Mikkel Jersin er på vej til Cannes som Producer on the Move. Her fortæller han, hvorfor der ligger store gaver gemt i en grænseoverskridende tilgang til f...
Benarbejde på de røde løbere

Benarbejde på de røde løbere

11. maj 2016 | Af Henrik Bo Nielsen KLUMME. Endnu engang er en stor del af verdens filmkunstnere, filmkøbmænd, journalister og andet godtfolk på vej til den franske riviera for at deltage i den 69...
Dansk film med internationalt look

Dansk film med internationalt look

10. maj 2016 | Af Jonas Varsted Kirkegaard CANNES 2016. Nicolas Winding Refns The Neon Demon er optaget i Los Angeles, men præ og post-produktion er i høj grad foregået i Danmark med en blanding af...
Cannes 2016 overblik

Cannes 2016 overblik

26. april 2016 | Af Lars Fiil-Jensen CANNES. Programmer og juryer på dette års Cannes Festival er nu udmeldt. Der er seks gange dansk deltagelse i festivalens program. Shahrbanoo Sadats danskprodu...
Mikkel Jersin er Producer on the Move

Mikkel Jersin er Producer on the Move

21. april 2016 | Af Freja Dam CANNES. Mikkel Jersin er i år Danmarks deltager ved Producers on the Move, som afholdes under Cannes Festivalen. Producer Mikkel Jersin er årets danske deltager i P...
Wolf and Sheep til Cannes

Wolf and Sheep til Cannes

19. april 2016 | Af Anders Budtz-Jørgensen CANNES. Shahrbanoo Sadats danskproducerede Wolf and Sheep er udtaget til Cannes i serien Quinzaine des Realisateurs/Director's Fortnight. Nicolas Winding...
The Neon Demon til Cannes

The Neon Demon til Cannes

14. april 2016 | Af Lars Fiil-Jensen Med sit danskproducerede og Los Angeles-sitrende gys, The Neon Demon, er Nicolas Winding Refn med i hovedkonkurrencen i år i Cannes. Foto: Gunther Campine/The...

Factbox

Det Danske Filminstitut

Danish Film Institute /
Det Danske Filminstitut

EAN-nr: 5798000794085
CVR-nr: 56858318

Gothersgade 55
1123 København K

Tel. +45 3374 3400
Fax +45 3374 3401
E-mail: dfi@dfi.dk

Tickets
TEL. +45 3374 3412