Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
First time director Shahrbanoo Sadat, who took home the top prize at the 2016 Cannes Director’s Fortnight for WOLF AND SHEEP, takes us on a journey into an area of Afghanistan we see very little of. It’s a small, rural village with clear positions of power and very few citizens. The boys and girls, by their own accord, are separated. They’re each of their own, parental-less world. These young children serve as our eyes and ears into the village. We follow their story as they live their daily lives, get into trouble, mimic behaviours of their superiors (for both better and worse), and gossip about the townspeople. It’s a story without story, and becomes a wholly unique moviegoing experience.
WOLF AND SHEEP is a film that goes beyond your typical narrative structure. Not having scripted characters or events makes for a non-linear way of storytelling, something I feel I’ve said about three times too many throughout the film festival, but it’s something that rings true once again. It’s a film without a start, middle or end. Events happen, situations rise and one kid gets his eye plucked out (it’s not pretty), but everything occurs without flow. This lack of structure makes for a surreal, naturalistic viewpoint, however at the cost of occasional tediousness. As I was watching this film very early in the morning and a good way through the festival, I found my eyes slowly closing during the quiet moments.
The title of “WOLF AND SHEEP” does come into play throughout, whether it’s through symbolism, a strange fantasy sequence or the unexpected, rather literal finale. It takes on several meanings, both in the actual world and metaphorically speaking, and I liked that about it. The kids, at one point, discuss a wolf-like creature who, when shedding away their fur pelt, reveals themselves to be a beautiful green fairy. It blends fantasy into the real-world situation, but it does feel incredibly jarring. We go from kids hanging around in the woods to a green spray-painted nudist, and it’s something I wasn’t remotely ready to see.
Even at just a mere 86-minute runtime, WOLF AND SHEEP is able to cram in as much beauty, symbolism and cultural importance as it can. It’s a wonderful tale of a small little village that, while narratively flawed, makes for a fascinating film. Storytelling is key at the village, and this is a story I imagine they’re all very proud of.
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