Monday, June 15, 2009

Turtles can Fly

Turtles Can Fly is one of the two Iranian films I've seen with the other one being Ten by Abbas Kiarostami. Both of these films, I watched in my film studies class. TCF is a particularly touching story that you expect to read about on paper or watch on the news, but such stories never made it out of the Middle East until now. The characters and storyline of the film are the two elements that grabbed my attention. While I also enjoyed the filming style and soundtrack, those are somewhat secondary in TCF at least during my viewing.

The protagonist is called by the name Satellite because of his expertise in anything technological and in installing satellite dishes to receive international news. He is a charismatic orphan who leads a whole gang of orphans because of his knowledge and slightly older age. Although the film takes place on the eve of a war, Satellite is able to have control of nearly all orphans and keep order during chaos. One of the orphans that Satellite have difficulty leading is Henkov, who is a new arrival at the refugee camp along with his sister, Agrin, and a little boy.

Many things in the film are disturbing and left me disheartened. It was disturbing to see Henkov is missing an arm at such a young age and the little boy, who Henkov takes cares of, is blind and has obvious physical signs of his condition. A boy who is the second command to Satellite is a missing leg but runs as if he had two. Agrin, a pretty girl who Satellite falls in love with, has gone through emotional and physical sufferings. The orphans' main occupation is not to study but to clear out minefields without any protection. This explains why many of the orphans are missing limbs.

With all these tragic circumstances, you never see the orphans complain about their lives. They are eager to help Satellite clear the minefields to earn some money, and they play on unusual playground settings without much worries. It is difficult to watch, but the optimism that the orphans have somewhat cheered me up. Furthermore, the film has a number of memorable funny moments--one such moment is when Satellite predicts the weather based on a U.S. news report that has nothing to do with the weather.

Throughout the film, TCF is beautiful and touching. I think the unusual title suggests hope and that the impossible is possible as demonstrated by the optimism of the orphans despite their impoverished lives and their abilities to work, play, and live even with numerous obstacles that they currently experience.


Anonymous said...

I also really liked this movie. It's amazing how they are able to cast all these child actors with disabilities. I wonder if it caused any controversies amongst the Iranian community.

Alex Lai said...

According to IMDB, all the child actors are actual refugees. Hopefully we'll see more movies from them.