Sara in 10 Minutes: portrait of a young orphan girl expresses hope for a better life

Sadaf Foroughi, “Sara in 10 Minutes / Sara Dar Dah Daghighe-h” (2007)

This is a charming documentary about a young orphan Sara, living in an orphanage somewhere in Iran with no knowledge of who her parents are or where she comes from. A girl with a blank past and history who nevertheless expresses faith in God and hope for a better future, Sara spends her free time dreaming about beaches, waves and moving water, reading books and watching films. No wonder director Foroughi picked the girl as the subject for this brief little doco: Sara might be representative of a bigger slab of society, maybe even Iran itself, looking to shake off a not-perfect past and going hopefully into a better, brighter future.

The film is in both colour and black-and-white: colour mostly for the dream sequences of scenes of serene beaches, rolling waves and moving water, all representing for Sara the ebb and flow of life (and maybe the ebb and flow of fortune for viewers); the black-and-white scenes are of Sara herself talking to the camera. It’s only in the final shots that Sara, playing on a swing, is revealed in colour. The film itself is highly self-referential with the sound of the film projector whirring away in the background and the use of captions indicating pause in the middle of the film. At the very end of the film, Sara says she might be lying and viewers will have to decide whether she makes this statement seriously or in jest.

The only other person who appears in the documentary is an unidentified psychologist who in one scene discusses the possibility that a child so immersed in her dreams may be on the verge of mental illness and then in a second scene talks about how children use their dreams and imaginations to build a construct or narrative of a better life. Again viewers must decide which opinion they want to believe.

It’s a whimsical piece and as the title says it’s just 10 minutes long so not too much is to be read into the film. Something more serious – an inquiry into the girl’s living conditions in the orphanage, what opportunities for employment and study are available to her when she has to leave, whether she needs family connections to be able to achieve her dreams and ambitions – would require a much longer running-time and the subject expanded to include other girls at the orphanage where she lives. For all that, the playful nature of the film which toys with viewers’ expectations suggests that Sara isn’t even what she claims to be.

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