Jury Coordination and Notes

The Orphanage * Message of Hope, Despite All Circumstances

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.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Erin M. comments, “The message of this film is about the importance of hope, despite all circumstances. The protagonist, Qodrat, remains hopeful and looks for positive routes of escapism throughout his struggles of growing up without a family, and his struggles at the orphanage. You should be aware that the film contains strong language and minor adult content.” See her full review below.

The Orphanage
By Erin M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The Orphanage is a stellar film conveying the need for true heartfelt cinematic experiences. Beautiful cinematography creates a transcendent movie experience, with a script based on the unpublished diaries of Anwar Hashim, who plays a supporting role in the film. Acclaimed director Shahrbanoo Sadat uses personal experiences to convey an uplifting message.

Wolf and Sheep, the prequel to The Orphanage, premiered in 2016. Like its predecessor, The Orphanage is based on real life experiences in Afghanistan. The movie chronicles the main character, Qodrat (Qodratollah Qadiri), who spends his days trying to survive by illegally selling overpriced movie tickets and key rings. He is then brought to a Russian-operated orphanage along with other teenage boys, where he is given the opportunity to get an education alongside his peers. The Orphanage details his experiences in the orphanage and how the quarrels between roommates of the dorms are dealt with by the director Anwar (Anwar Hashimi). All throughout a war torn country in 1989, Qodrat remains hopeful, through fantasy sequences shared with the audience.

The cinematography is what truly stands out in this film. Directory of photography, Virginie Surdej captures the beauty of the country while adding to the heartbreaking story. My favorite part of this movie is the performances by the young people, including Qodratollah Qadiri, who gives rare insight into real life in Afghanistan, as they are all natives of the country.

The message of this film is about the importance of hope, despite all circumstances. The protagonist, Qodrat, remains hopeful and looks for positive routes of escapism throughout his struggles of growing up without a family, and his struggles at the orphanage. You should be aware that the film contains strong language and minor adult content. There are also two graphic descriptions of war and violence. There is also some references to sex and pornographic images (very far away from the screen, but still visible) that are unsuitable for younger kids.  

I give The Orphanage 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18, plus adults. This film is available March 2, 2021 on Amazon Prime.

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