Monday, 10 October 2016

LFF 2016 REVIEW - WOLF AND SHEEP (SHAHRBANOO SADAT)


Shahrbanoo Sadat expands our cultural horizons as an international audience with Wolf and Sheep, a valuable document of a lifestyle that's fading fast. It implicitly celebrates and critiques both the cloistered, yet vastly open world of its protagonists, the residents of a tiny village in the mountains of Afghanistan, as well as the world beyond, with simple yet striking stylistic choices and an unobtrusive, sympathetic touch. If unlike most other films the average viewer will have seen in subject, in style it is thus rather less than groundbreaking; Sadat has the eye of an artist, but perhaps not the abilities of a master filmmaker, at least not yet. And one could hardly query the honesty of her outlook, gently emphasizing the universality of these characters' otherwise specific routines, and the timelessness of their way of life. Though the film is occasionally opaque or overly meandering, Sadat employs attractive means of expression, ever congruous to the story's fundamental content. Fables and fantasy are interwoven into the naturalism of Wolf and Sheep, afforded verity by their historical stature and their general benignancy; of considerably greater danger is the threat, though entirely unseen, of encroaching reality and modernity. With bold colours set against the sandy dust of the landscape, in fact the Tajikistani countryside, the film is beautiful to behold, and Virginie Surdej's cinematography is sumptuous. It's vivid details such as these that provide Wolf and Sheep with the artistic validity it requires to accompany its narrative validity, turning a slice of somewhat awkward arthouse into a worthwhile viewing experience.