Sabere was sold ten years old, to a 50-year-old afghan man. She became pregnant several times, resulting in miscarriage. Now she is sixteen and being helped to fight for her freedom. Sabere's mother was also inherited by her cousin. Her other daughter, Farzaneh, is now eleven. Her father is selling her because of poverty. Farzanes price tag is 50 sheep.
I Was worth 50 Sheep is the story of a brave girl, Sabere, and her struggle for life. Through the prism of her family this heart-rending and thought-provoking film brings the tragedy that is Afghanistan vividly to life.
Sabere has a price on her head. When she was just ten years old she was sold to a man forty years her senior. After seven years of confinement and abuse she escaped to find temporary refuge in a women’s sanctuary. Now she has a price on her head again, as her husband will kill her on sight. The camera picks up Sabere at the point where she has re-made contact with her family. She faces the decision of whether to stay in the safety of the sanctuary or whether to rejoin her family.
For Sabere's family this is a dangerous game of cat and mouse, as they move from location to location – always trying to stay one step ahead of her murderous husband. Only divorce can set Sabere free. But Islamic law will only grant a divorce if she can bring her husband to court. But there is a problem. Her husband is a Taliban man far beyond the reach of the law.
With desperation mounting, Sabere’s stepfather proposes a brave plan. They will mount a “sting” that will simultaneously capture her husband and free Sabere from his clutches. But for it to work, Sabere will have to meet her husband. And all the while the family dreads receiving the telephone call that will seal the fate of Sabere’s ten-year-old sister.
I Was worth 50 Sheep is a simple and moving story of a family’s struggle to survive. It was filmed over a period of two years in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, by award-winning director Nima Sarvestani.
Composer: Mehrdad Hoveida
Director of Photography
Sound design & Mix
Color correction & ON-LINE
SPECIAL THANKS TO
I Was Worth 50 Sheep Is Produced By
IN CO-PRODUCTION WITH
Swedish Television AB
Executive Producer ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer
VP of Programming ITVS
Program Manager ITVS
Coordinating Producer ITVS
ITVS International is made possible by:
The Ford Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
WITH ADDITIONAL SUPPORT BY
IN COLLABORATION WITH
Mette Hoffmann Meyer
This film was produced by
Nimafilm Sweden which is solely
responsible for its content.
© NIMA FILM SWEDEN 2010
All Rights Reserved
Comment & review
Gothenburg International Film Festival
INTERVIEW I Director Nima Sarvestani
Nima Sarvestani about receiving the award Best Nordic Documentary for his film "I Was Worth 50 Sheep" at the Gothenburg international film festival 2011
Draws attention to the plight of young girls sold as brides by their impoverished relatives.
Social-issue docu "I Was Worth 50 Sheep" uses one family's story to draw attention to the plight of young girls sold as brides by their impoverished relatives in return for livestock or land, a traditional Afghan tribal practice. Eschewing contextual information on this culturally entrenched custom or statistics about how widespread it is, Swedish helmer Nima Sarvestani lets his subjects speak for themselves as he follows them over the course of a year. Supported by a consortium of broadcasters including ITVS Intl., pic nabbed the Swedish docu award in Gothenburg and will air on some American public television stations.
In the city of Mazar-e Sharif, lively, illiterate, 16-year-old Sabere relates how, after the death of her father, her cousins let an elderly Talib buy her. The man, a wanted criminal, was reputed to have killed his previous wives, and abused Sabere badly before she eventually managed to flee to a women's shelter.
Through the shelter, Sabere reunites with her mother and grandmother; her stepfather, Abdol Khalegh; and her 10-year-old half-sister, Farzaneh. In spite of Abdol Khalegh's professed willingness to help Sabere obtain a divorce, he has already accepted a down payment for Farzaneh's bride price. Although Abdol Khalegh claims to have arranged to keep Farzeneh at home until she turns 16, the purchasing clan is pushing to have her immediately, and he seems likely to cave in to their demands. A dutiful daughter, Farzaneh (who has never been to school) says she accepts her fate because of tradition.
Filmed primarily in cramped indoor spaces in an earnest, artless style, the pic benefits from the contrast provided when the camera follows Abdol Khalegh onto the crowded streets where even less fortunate burqa-covered women look like bundles of cloth, begging in the dust next to their crippled offspring. Testimony from the social workers at the shelter provides perspective on the difficulties and dangers faced by educated Afghan working women.
Best part of the merely serviceable tech package is the lightly used traditional music score by Mehrdad Hoveida. Pic is also available in 52-minute and 58-minute versions for broadcast.
The documentary I was worth fifty sheep tells us the story of Sabere, an Afghan girl who was sold to a man of 55 years. She was ten. After six years of intense abuse she fled to a women shelter. In this documentary Sabere is followed in her struggle to get divorced of her husband. She fears for her live since knows what her husband is able to. She also fears for the life of her little sister Faranzeh who has been promised to a men for fifty sheep and a piece of land.
The documentary is covering about two years of Sabere’s life. It shows the people involved and the different influencing factors. We get to see the power of tradition, the masculine legal system and poverty. Much attention is spend to the stepfather. A dominant men who bosses the women around. He has no job and no sons which leaves him puzzling his head off to escape the poverty. The two sisters are remarkable wise for their young age. They have however no power to change their lives. All they can do is wait and pray for mercy of the stepfather.
It’s clear that the crew had a small budget. The sometimes poor camerawork is distracting. The arrest of Sabere’s husband is for example not visible due to sun reflections. The whole documentary is quite sober, there’s hardly any music, no voice over and a minimum of other esthetical features.
The raw and unpolished editing however contributes to the story. The strength of this documentary is that the story can speak for itself. It has a good structure and the characters are strong. The whole documentary is entertaining and especially the last 30 minutes are, without trying, intense and dramatic.
When the image turns to black one is left with a head full of questions. That’s probably the best prove of a good documentary.
By Lieke Heije
Drum rolls, bird whistles and the sound of running water kick of the documentary “I was worth 50 sheep”. This is a touching story about Sabere, who is an Afghan girl and was sold to a abusive Taliban man. In the next awful six years Sabere gets pregnant and has a number of miscarriages. Now she is sixteen and is being helped by a Women’s shelter to fight for her freedom. She is struggling to get a divorce but her husband is not willing to sign the papers. She has to hide with her family so her husband cannot find and kill her. Not only Sabere is fighting for her freedom, also her eleven year old half-sister Farzaneh is now at risk, as the family has decided to sell her to pay off their debts. They want to trade her for 50 sheep.
In the first few minutes of the documentary, you only see the lips of the two sisters, this makes it very personal. Throughout the whole documentary there is really a focus, which is recording the faces of the two sisters. They use a lot of close up shots which makes the story touching and more personal. You get emotionally involved. Though, it seems that the crew had a low budget, as some of the camera work is very poor. Most of the camera work is very shaky, which is really distracting. Lightning was also often very bad. It got dark early and you could hardly see anything. Also whenever the sun was shining it was hard to see all things clear.
The crew did not use any special effects. However, this is not meant in a negative way as it makes the story more real and personal. Nothing is added in or fake and that touches you. This is actually the strength of the documentary. The material is so raw and real that it sucks you into the story. It makes you think about life and that these horrible things still happen every day.
The documentary gives you an idea about how life can be at the other side of the world. How woman are treated in Afghanistan. “ A woman is less value then an animal” is a line often used in this country. You get to see the capacity of hierarchy, tradition and a very masculine country. Definitely worth watching.