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The Orphanage 2019

The Orphanage | Parwareshghah | L'orphelinat

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Caught selling black market cinema tickets, a young boy is sent to a Soviet orphanage where he daydreams himself into his favorite Bollywood films.

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About The Orphanage 💬

Kabul, 1989. During pro-Soviet government.

In the late 1980s, 15-year-old Qodrat (Quodratollah Qadiri) lives in the streets of Kabul and sells cinema tickets on the black market. He is a big Bollywood fan and he daydreams himself into some of his favorite movie scenes. One day, the police bring him to the Soviet orphanage. But in Kabul, the political situation is changing. Qodrat and all the children want to defend their home.

Shahrbanoo Sadat's (Wolf and Sheep, 2016) second feature film THE ORPHANAGE is also the second part of a pentalogy, five films based on an unpublished autobiography.


Q: The film is based on your friend Anwar's memories. What elements in his story encouraged you to adapt them as a screenplay?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: I found his story very honest, simple and rich at the same time. His story took me on a journey through the history of Afghanistan over the last forty years. From the innocent point of view of an orphan. He was a child stuck in a war that was not his war. It's exactly how I feel today living in Afghanistan.

Q: To what extent did you try to stick to the true events? Did you use some elements of your own past to write the film?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: Anwar spent 8 years of his life in the orphanage. In his autobiography, there are many pages full of characters, events, lots of history, lots of names of people and places, which only make sense for an Afghan audience. I read the pages over and over and I struggled a lot with myself to find the right balance between what happened and what actually should happen in the film. I wanted to make it easier to understand for an international audience but I never forgot the Afghan audience. I made the time period shorter, even though the story starts in 1989 and ends with Mujahideen taking over Kabul in 1992, but I kept the time fictional so characters don't grow up but one still feels that time has passed. I also cut down the number of characters. Sometimes I mixed different stories and characters to make them my own. The Bollywood film songs are the big part I added to Anwar's story but Anwar was really a huge fan of Bollywood and sold cinema tickets on the black market.

Q: Is your friend's testimony an indirect way of questioning Afghanistan's recent history?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: One can't question the present if one doesn't know the past. There are enough films about Afghanistan today and I swear the whole world knows there is a conflict there. What interests me is to dig into the past, to find out where all this mess actually started from.

Q: You use a lot of cinematic "grammar" from Bollywood in the film. How did you come up with the idea of creating your own Bollywood sequences?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: Well, Bollywood is a huge film industry in my part of the world and the friendship between Afghanistan and India has made it even stronger. Almost all Afghans can speak Urdu because they watch so many Indian movies. Perhaps the 1980s were the golden time for that, because we had cinema theaters and there was peace at least in Kabul, the capital.

In Afghanistan today, there are many "Z films" being produced one after another influenced by Bollywood movies. So the idea was not very far away from me. Also, the fact that Anwar sold cinema tickets on the black market and was a big fan of Bollywood made this idea fit into the film.

Q: The orphans in the film come from very different ethnic and religious backgrounds. Did you want the orphanage to be representative of the diversity of Afghanistan?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: The orphanage is one of the few places in the entire country where everyone lives together with no matter of religion or ethnicity. I was interested in this fact, especially, when in the early 1990's the ethnic civil war in Kabul started and many killed each other only because they didn't belong to the same ethnicity.

Q: Alongside its historic background, the film also deals with the coming-of-age of the different orphans. Was this part entirely written or did you let the comedians improvise?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: Everything was written. Even though they improvised a lot, in the end, it is very similar to what I wrote.

Q: The film's conclusion remains open, with a spectacular dreamlike approach. Why did you choose to end it this way?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: That's an easy answer! I wanted to let the children win! We all know what happens in war. Women, children and civilians get killed and lose. I didn't see a point in repeating this one more time while I actually had the power to rewrite it.

Q: Qodrat loves to imagine himself as a film character. Were you like him as a teenager? What role did cinema play for you when you were growing up?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: I like Qodrat. He is smart and I think he can make a career for himself one day as an actor. Cinema came to my life very late. I stepped in a real cinema theatre for the first time when I was 20. I had a different childhood.

Q: You originally planned to direct five films inspired by your friend's story. Is it still a current project? Or do you have other directing aspirations?

Shahrbanoo Sadat: Part one (Wolf and Sheep) and part two (The Orphanage) are done. I'm working on the third and fourth parts now. All these stories are inspired by Anwar's piece. He tries to publish his diary and inside of me there is a wish growing to make a film not based and not inspired by his work. I'll do it one day, when I am older, perhaps when I finish this pentalogy.

The Orphanage Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Shahrbanoo Sadat

Writing Credits

Shahrbanoo Sadat


Quodratollah Qadiri


Hasibullah Rasooli


Ahmad Fayaz Osmani

Karan Jeet Singh

Eshanullah Kharoti

Asadullah Kabiri

Fridoon Muradi

Abdul Rahman Formoli

Yama Yakmanesh

Nahid Yakmanesh

Daria Gaiduk

Anwar Hashimi

Cinematography by

Virginie Surdej

Genres: Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Musical

Countries: Denmark, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Afghanistan

The Orphanage Official Trailer

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