Chicago International Film Festival 2016: Wolf and Sheep
By Andrea Thompson
“Wolf and Sheep” is one of those rare films that doesn't need a narrative to be compelling. Instead, Afghan filmmaker Shahrbanoo Sadat has crafted a moving, deeply watchable docu-drama about rural life in her country. And since residents of the small mountainside village are seen through the eyes of an insider, an interesting thing happens. Instead of the villagers being seen as some sort of Other (generally either unnaturally wise to both the cruelty of both the world and nature or deceitfully plotting against righteous heroes), they emerge as fully human, even if some aspects of their daily life is incomprehensible to outsiders. The focus is mainly on the children who are strictly segregated by sex, even as they are mostly free from adult supervision when watch over various flocks of sheep throughout the day. They fight, gossip, boast, and ostracize, and the society they live in becomes even more recognizable. There are secrets, scandals, tough talk, and a boy and a girl even form a close friendship in one of the film's most touching subplots. However, there is also a puzzling addition of a supernatural element in the form of otherworldly creatures who come into the village to steal sheep, and sometimes, people. It's a poetic touch, and like much of the other aspects of “Wolf and Sheep,” nothing much comes of it. But it's hard to see why it was even included, since the movie seems to do just fine without it. It's not quite as baffling as the climax, where the outside world intrudes and “Wolf and Sheep” comes to a rather abrupt end. But not even the film's own flaws are enough to detract from the joy of an experience so alien and familiar at the same time.