Country: Iran, Afghanistan
Two children are orphaned in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
IMDB Comment: Outstanding Iranian/Afghan film with terrific child leads (and an adorable dog)
I am a sucker for dog movies in any case, but combine an adorable Scottish Terrier with the two wonderful child actors who are the leads in this film and you have a winner. The performance by the 7 year old girl Gol Ghoti is particularly outstanding. The young boy Zahed also has several great moments especially some of a black comedic vein in exchanges with a jail guard.
Briefly the plot involves a sister and brother who are 'night prisoners' at a prison where their mother is being kept on some sort of bigamy/adultery charges as she had remarried when her Taliban husband had disappeared for 5 years during various wars. Her second husband dies but the first husband returns and has her jailed, then he himself is jailed by the Americans for being Taliban. The kids are able to stay overnight at least with the mother while gathering wood and picking for articles from the dump during the day to make a living. Then the prison governor changes the rules and the kids are out on the street at night as well. They have adopted a stray dog in the meantime after rescuing it from a gang of kids who were tormenting it. They and their pet are collectively the 'stray dogs' of the title.
The kids then proceed thru a comedy of errors to try to get caught stealing so that they can be sentenced to prison and rejoin their mother. A charming sequence is done in tribute to Vittorio De Sica's 'The Bicycle Thief' which the kids actually go to see at the Kabul cinema in order to gather tips and inspiration for their attempted crimes.
A lot of this probably sounds very bleak and depressing but the spirit of the kids, their charming dog and their love for each other and family lets this film rise above the harsh circumstances that they face and convey a heartwarming (and at times heartbreaking) tale of endurance and love.
This is the 2nd film by Iranian director Meshkini who developed the idea while working on scouting the Afghan locations for Samira Makhmalbaf's 'At Five in the Afternoon'.
So far (Sept 2004) I believe this has only played at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals but it hopefully will receive a wider distribution. In 90 minutes this film lets you feel more for the Afghan experience than many other and longer histories or documentaries could convey.
English sub included.