TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


The Orphanage

Shahrbanoo Sadat, Katja Adomeit

Denmark, Afghanistan, Poland


"The Orphanage" is set in the late ’80s in Kabul, Afghanistan, when the Soviet-Afghan war increased the number of orphans heavily. Ethnic background is crucial; therefore all children lie in the registration office, pretending they belong to another ethnicity, making up a complete fake identity.

Qodrat (14) who is Hazara, does the same; he changes his ethnicity to Tajik. He shares his room with a couple of older boys, who pick on him. As soccer and chess players can make friends easily, Qodrat, whose feet never touched a ball before, learns to play football. He gets to make his own gang, which has power and a good relation to the security guards and teachers. Now Qodrat is the one giving the other children a hard time. Everything goes well until the Soviets leave and the Mujahideen take over Kabul. The civil war starts and the Hazaras occupy the orphanage and build their military base there. The children who have relatives, leave, but many others including Qodrat have no one and have to stay. The Mujahideen rob and rape them and force them to fight for them. One night as the Hazaras are about to be defeated, they decide to massacre the children. Qodrat cannot prove he is actually Hazara as them. He and a few others manage to escape and make their way to Pakistan.


8 years ago, I met my cousin Anwar for the first time. At that time, we had no clue we are related.

We worked at the same TV station, but in different departments. After 2 years, we had become best friends. We found out we are not only cousins but also that my sister got married to his brother many years ago. Even though Anwar is 18 years older than me, we have very much in common. He was born in a small and isolated village in central Afghanistan and lived there until he was 8. He moved to Kabul to live with his step-sister after his father died of cancer and his mother remarried with an old man, already married, who did not want her children. I grew up in the same village, but long after Anwar had left. We both grew up as outsiders.

After a while, Anwar escaped from his step-sister’s home. He lived in the streets for a couple of years before he went to the orphanage, where he became someone else, giving himself a new ethnic background and religion, so now even though we are cousins, we cannot prove it. His fake identity is a Sunni-Tajik family from Kabul and I come from a Shia-Sadat family from Bamyan. As an orphan, he experienced the worst time ever in Afghanistan; civil war in Kabul. I feel very connected to him, as the country now is in the same situation as then. I live in Kabul and every day there is a risk of being killed, suicide attacks happen everywhere.

I have nothing to do with this war; I am just stuck in the middle. I want to portray the life of people who are stuck in war, like Anwar and me. Anwar’s time in the orphanage pictures what is present in Afghanistan now. "The Orphanage" is a symbol of Afghanistan, where children from different ethnicities live collectively together. With their different backgrounds and stories. I want to talk about Afghanistan like no one dares to. Afghans depend on ethnicity and religion; they cannot talk or do anything without taking a side. They do not want to accept we all are in the same shit and we are all suffering. They do not understand, it is only us, who have the power to stop it. I blame myself that I am not able to leave Afghanistan even though I am scared to death of being killed. I stay because I hate my country so much and I want to fix it in a way, I want to bring changes with making films, by telling stories like Anwar’s. I want to make people dream again and I believe Anwar’s story has the potential to do so.

budget & financing

We have received development funding from Creative Europe - MEDIA, the Asian Cinema Fund in Busan and Centre for Culture and Development in Copenhagen, Denmark. What we need is to receive financing from the national institutes. We cannot shoot the film in Afghanistan, therefore we need to bring all Afghan cast to the country we would like to shoot in: Poland. We are shooting with the Polish/Belgian cinematographer Virginie Surdej, who was already involved in Shahr’s first feature film, "Wolf and Sheep". The financing of the production will be coming from the national institutes in Denmark (major), Poland (minor) and supranational funds like Doha Film Institute, Visions Sud Est, Sørfond, Hubert Bals, which support films from and made in DAClisted countries. The budget is based on a Danish and Polish crew, Afghan cast, shooting in Poland (historically as well as war scenes included) doing all post-production in Denmark. We have been through some difficulties during writing for the last couple of months. Anwar has left Afghanistan and lives as a refugee in Germany and Shahr has been sitting in front of the computer, listening to bombs exploding and therefore the writing process is delayed. Meanwhile she is doing casting in Afghanistan and cannot just leave right away. To be able to proceed with the financing I therefore rethought the size of the crew, the entire process of the film, the costs as well as the financing of the film to go with a lower amount to apply to the Danish Film Institute, allowing the process to go faster, reduce the budget with bigger discounts for facilities due to the “low budget” nature. That gives us the possibility to start quite fast, getting Shahr out of the country and into focusing on the next project.

distribution & sales

"The Orphanage" is the second part in a pentalogy of films, all emerged from Shahr’s best friend Anwar’s diary. The five films have the same character throughout all parts. They are based on Anwar’s life and real events. "The Orphanage" tells the story of Afghanistan through child characters played by real orphans from the same orphanage. Yet it takes no side. It is directed by a female Afghan director, Cannes-awarded. It has the assets to reach our dream goals of getting in touch with a wider audience than the festival and art-house one. We also want to create honest films from Afghanistan, dare to tell the stories from the country no one else dares to tell. We will continue distribution in the countries where the first part, "Wolf and Sheep", will be released this and next year – France, Denmark, Sweden – hoping this time to hit territories like Germany and the US. We do not have an international sales agent yet, but hope to attach one before shooting. Our goal is to premiere in Cannes. We would like to create a dialogue about the time of the ’80s in Kabul, where women were walking around in mini-skirts and were able to go to school and universities, where music and film and art were a natural part of Kabul’s everyday life.


The Orphanage is the symbol of what Afghans experience through years living in Afghanistan: being in the middle of a war they are not even part of.
Shahrbanoo Sadat

Scriptwriter, Film Director

Katja Adomeit


production notes

original title
Parwareshgah e watan

directed by
Shahrbanoo Sadat

produced byAdomeit Film Aps
Husumgade 43,4th
2200, Copenhagen N

total production budget
€ 1.059.357

current financial need
€ 950.000