Set in late Soviet-era Afghanistan, this coming-of-age tale from Shahrbanoo Sadat follows her acclaimed debut Wolf and Sheep, and is the second film in a planned pentalogy based on the diary of writer Anwar Hashimi. Protagonist Qodrat returns, now a 15-year-old boy who is sent to a state orphanage after getting caught selling black market cinema tickets. Coping with bullies, friendship and a nascent romance, Qodrat finds escape in Bollywood-esque song-and-dance fantasies that delight him - and the audience - even as his homeland starts to fall apart. Sadat captures the innocence of late 1980s Afghan youth with pleasing and nostalgia-tinted charm, while remaining keenly aware of the violence that history would soon thrust upon them.Written by
War in Afghanistan, lonely children and their hiding places - an orphanage and Hollywood movies where you can get away from the cruelty around.
Illustration by Christina CookThe Orphanage is the second film directed by Shahrbanoo Sadat. It was screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the Cannes Film Festival. Last year's nominees for the European Film Awards including such films as And Then We Danced (directed by Levan Akin) and Oleg (directed by Juris Kursietis) were also featured in the above-mentioned Section at the 72nd Festival.
Shahrbanoo Sadat's works intend to create a chain which has to consist of 5 separate films. Undoubtedly, the films that have already been made appear to be interconnected. Despite this fact, they are not inseparable. Each film can be viewed as an independent and multifaceted work of art.
Qodrat, a young man who has lost his parents, is the protagonist of the film. He does not look like a tramp or an abandoned child trembling with fear. Qodrat is an entrepreneurial teenager who sells cheap key chains and, what is much more important, resells tickets for popular Bollywood movies at a triple price.
Watching Qodrat getting by, we also see war-ravaged Afghanistan where people sincerely love Indian movies.
When the Bollywood film is on, everyone is reverently watching yet another fight and even adult men dance to the beat of the vibrant music.
All of us associate Bollywood with different movies, be it a famous Seeta and Geeta comedy-drama film, or a modern musical drama film Gully boy. Yet, it is always bright, colorful and with a happy end.
All the turning points in The Orphanage are accompanied by the Bollywood movie excerpts, whose romantic nature not only helps to convey hopes and dreams of the heroes but also disguises their pain and frustration.
Being caught scalping the tickets, Qodrat is taken to an orphanage. There he meets the same children as he is. Children who were left alone; the ones who just want to live as the heroes of their favorite films being able to easily overcome obstacles, being strong and unpredictable.
However, the reality is different. The orphanage, as well as prison, has its own rules. There are different people who do not have much in common; people brought up cherishing different values.
Still, the boy manages to find real friends who he spends endless sunny days with. They have a roof above their heads and hot food. The residents of the orphanage do not think much about the outer world which exists outside their shelter. They live here and now - make friends, dream, learn and misbehave.
Director Anwar, both strict and just, maintain harmony and order in the orphanage.
Even if you are just raising children, you cannot isolate yourself from the authorities and the war. You have to fit in, as the ones in power set the rules and responsibilities; they may support as well as punish. It is a heavy burden that lies on Anwar's shoulders.
When the children are being taken care of by the Soviet Union, they learn Russian and even have a chance to visit Moscow. When the Mujahideen come to power, the rules in the orphanage change accordingly - new ideology, new textbooks, the new context of existence.
The Orphanage is a film about lonely children whose world is destroyed by the war. Someone dies on the battlefield, someone stays in order to survive or just surrender a bit later.
Even if you are a child, war can turn you into an adult in a split second.
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