Monday, August 17, 2009

Children of Heaven

Sorry, the trailer is a bit misleading...

The storyline of Children of Heaven, an Iranian film, is a simple one: a brother trying to find his sister's pair of shoes which he lost on his way home from the shoe repair shop. You wouldn't guess that loosing a pair of shoes is that big of a deal as people now often have a whole closet full of shoes. But to Ali and Zahra, the brother and sister in the film, loosing a pair of shoes means that they would get beaten by their father who is barely making ends meet, reprimanded by their mother who is ill, and that Zahra would not be able to go to school.

The rest of the story is poignant. Ali tries hard to find his sister's shoes. But because Ali was unable to find it, he makes up to her sister by giving her gifts including a pencil and a pen that he was given as a reward for being a top student. The scene where Ali gives Zahra a pencil is incredibly touching--Majid Majidi, the director, was able to make the audience understand that a single pencil is worth a whole lot to this impoverished family. In addition, Ali race in a marathon in hopes of winning third place where the prize is a pair of new shoes.

One thing that I was annoyed by is how useless and pathetic Ali's father is. The father goes into the city with Ali to make a few extra money by gardening for the rich. As they begin going door to door asking if residents need a gardener, the father gets nervous and tongue-tied. He rings the telecom and does not know what to say. He can't even get the words "Do you need a gardener?" out of his mouth. Ali comes to his rescue and draws in their first customer. Furthermore, on their way home, their bicycle's break fails. Speeding down a hill, the father is not capable of stopping the bicycle safely resulting in injuries for both of them.

The sibling connection of the film is beautiful. The two children take the matter into their own hands without ever telling their parents, teachers, or friends what has happened. They share one pair of shoes so that both of them would be able to go to school. When Zahra accidentally dropped one of the shoes into a gutter of fast moving water, I literally gasped guessing how the shoe might not be retrievable and knowing how important and valuable that one single shoe is to them. Aside from these moments that I have mentioned, there are many others that are memorable. One other great scene is when Zahra runs home to return Ali's sneakers so that Ali can get to school on time. During this scene, the camera focuses on Zahra who is small; as a result, everyone else who is taller than Zahra is cut off at the waist. This reminded me of Tom and Jerry where the humans' faces are never seen.

One complain I have, however, is that I wish Majidi had given the film a more rounded ending. Near the end of the film, we know what will happen but Majidi chose not to show that ending which I think would have a positive, uplifting effect. If you enjoyed Turtles can Fly and The Kite Runner, I think you would like COH as well.

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