Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

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Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Mon Jun 06, 2005 2:41 pm

TURTLES CAN FLY (Lakposhtha hm parvaz mikonand)

Directed by Bahman Ghobadi (2004)

Expecting another bleak, minimalist Iranian film I was totally unprepared for the exuberance and unforgettable power of Kurdish director Bohman Ghobadi's (Time For Drunken Horses) Turtles Can Fly. A joint Iran-Iraq venture, the film is the first narrative film to be shot in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein and is a view of war from the inside of a Kurdish refugee camp close to the Iraq-Turkish border just prior to and during the U.S. invasion. There is no overt political message in the film, yet the hundreds of parentless children in the film, many with broken limbs from exploding landmines, tell a story of war that transcends politics.

In a country where there remains an estimated 50 million landmines, the marketing of unexploded landmines can be a lucrative business. At least, it is a means of survival for a thirteen-year old nicknamed "Satellite" who organizes groups of youngsters to defuse landmines and sell them to arms dealers for food. Assisted by friends Pashow (Saddam Hossein Feysal) and Shirkooh (Ajil Zibari), Satellite (Soran Ebrahim) is a cocky but natural leader who received his nickname from his ability to install satellite dishes in an area where the villagers are hungry for news about the upcoming U.S. invasion. The children live in a world that has no electricity and no schools and where watching television with a satellite dish is a luxury, especially when many of the channels are forbidden. Because satellite knows some English, he is asked to translate news broadcasts for the old men in the village but refuses, saying his job is only to install. Humorously, the elders cringe when he switches the channel to MTV.

A potential threat to Satellite's power is an armless orphan Hengov (Hiresh Feysal Rahman) whose ability to defuse landmines with his teeth lead to a struggle for power between the two. Hengov also has the ability to predict the future and, as their relationship warms, he ends up feeding information that enables Satellite to solidify his power over the children. One telling scene that Hengov predicts is when an American helicopter flies over the children clustered on a hill and drops leaflets saying that Americans will make this country a paradise, a hollow boast as it turned out. Satellite is attracted to Hengov's sister Agrin (Avaz Latif) who cares for Riga (Abdol Rahman Karim), a sightless two-year old boy, later revealed to be the result of a rape by Iraqi soldiers during a skirmish in which her parents were killed and her brother lost his limbs. Agrin is a haunting presence in the film and her ultimate acts of desperation bookend the film.

Turtles Can Fly is a remarkable work of commitment from Ghobadi, an assistant director on Abbas Kiarostami's The Wind Will Carry Us. He wants the world to know the plight of millions of stateless Kurds who are at the mercy of politicians who support them when it suits their purposes and oppose them when it does not. Coming on the wake of Kore'eda's Nobody Knows, another film about abandoned children, Ghobadi's film is both a celebration of their innocence and a warning about the dangers they face from dictators, fascists, and over-zealous democrats. Far better than any CNN or El Jazeera news account possibly could relate, the story of the war is written in their soulful faces.


Re: Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby trevor826 » Mon Jun 06, 2005 6:13 pm

Excellent review of one of the best foreign films I've seen this year. If Satellite had lived in the West I have no doubt he would have become a millionaire entrepreneur, the only thing that would have got his way would have been his ego.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Mon Jun 06, 2005 6:23 pm

Thanks Trevor. Perhaps the young actor will now come to the U.S. like one of the Palestinian actors did in the 2001 documentary "Promises". There teeange cockiness is a way of life.

Re: Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby A » Mon Jun 06, 2005 10:08 pm

Thanks for the review Howard.
But while I liked the film ( rated it *** / ****), I am not so cheerful about it as most people seem to be.
It had some clichees imo, and the glimpses of the girl jumping of the cliff during the whole movie, were way too much. The metaphor and message of this were like shoved in your face, while it would have been much more effective, if the viewer had only seen it at the end (and maybe at the beginning).
Also the main protagonists didn't have enough depth imo, they were more like characters acting their specific type of character and his behavings over and over again. While the film is way ahead on almost anything that was made about this war (be it tv, news, documentaries, etc,etc.), and it's a very important film, one shouldn't overestimize it just because of that. I am writing this only on this board, because I know we have people here who have seen their share of films, and are openminded. On any other filmboard I would be more or less "praising" it.

Re: Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Mon Jun 06, 2005 11:24 pm

I didn't say it was a masterpiece but it worked for me.

Re: Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby A » Thu Jun 09, 2005 3:18 pm

It's just the A- rating. Seems like a near masterpiece...,
The review was good.

Re: Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby howardschumann(d) » Thu Jun 09, 2005 5:23 pm

I rate films not on any objective standard but how they appealed to me. That is why ny list of top 140 films is a list of favorites, not best. The only films I rate higher than A- are those which would immediately go on my list of favorites.

Re: Turtles Can Fly (Iran)

Postby arsaib4 » Wed Oct 05, 2005 1:45 am

Turtles Can Fly (Lakposhtha hm parvaz mikonand) is the third feature film from award-winning filmmaker Bahman Ghobadi. And much like his earlier two films, A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) and Marooned in Iraq (2002), Ghobadi has set it near the Iraqi border. Here, more specifically, its Northern Iraq from where the Kurd population spreads out inside the border of Turkey, another country (besides the likes of Iran, Syria, and Armenia -- who also hold Kurd population along their borders), which has failed to acknowledge the region commonly referred to as "Kurdistan." But this film isnt about borders; it, in fact, transcends any that exist, whether geographical or political, and thats one of its major triumphs.

Our protagonist is a young 13-year-old boy (Soran Ebrahim) whos nicknamed "Satellite" due to his ability to install TV satellite dishes. Hes also the leader of a horde of orphan kids living in makeshift refugee camps as they depend on him for various "odd" jobs, including plucking mines from minefields, something that has taken many lives and limbs. Their territory is partly invaded by an armless boy who can see the future (an obvious and rightful attempt by Ghobadi to undermine what villagers got through news channels after upgrading -- the one they flipped on was Fox!), but Satellite eventually tries to befriend him because of his hauntingly beautiful young sister (Avaz Latif) whos usually seen carrying a child, a relationship that gets defined in a disturbing flashback.

Turtles Can Fly is strikingly shot. The stunningly poetic visuals remind one of mid-period Kiarostami, perhaps not surprising since Ghobadi, a Tehran based Kurd, was an assistant of the master on The Wind Will Carry Us (1999). But Ghobidis landscape is almost mythical, perpetually shrouded in fog and mist, a potent metaphor or perhaps a pungent pun. Unfortunately, the films narrative also seems lost at times in trying to impede the impending tragedy, which doesnt hit as hard partially because this isnt the first film that has dealt with kids in precarious situations. However, it was the first to be shot in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein (a giant arm from one of his numerous statues gets bought by a kid for a few mines!), obviously a time-period which coincided with the arrival of American troops. But Ghobadi seems ambivalent, and rightfully so: the problems of his people didnt start with Saddam and theyre not going to end with the Americans. And the last thing to do now is to start the blame game because that will only delay the support the Kurds rightfully deserve.


*The film had its international premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in 2004. IFC Films released it theatrically in the U.S. earlier this year. It is now available on DVD.

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