Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Turtles Can Fly

Apparently I have never mentioned this masterpiece which would have been very high on my list of top 25 films of the past decade (available on this blog) if I had seen it prior to creating that list. It is also among my top 25 films of all time.

Turtles Can Fly is a 2005 Kurdish film made in northern Iraq (Kurdistan) by the acclaimed Iranian (Kurdish) director Bahman Ghobadi. The film takes place in a Kurdish refugee village just before the American invasion of Iraq in March, 2003 and uses humour and intense drama to convey a sense of life in Kurdistan at that time, especially as seen through the eyes of children.

In particular, we follow the exploits of an enterprising teenager called Satellite who hires children to disarm and collect mines which he then trades for useful things (like a giant satellite dish) at the local market. Among those working for him are a teenage girl and her brother, who has no arms. The boy with no arms carries around a young child (perhaps two or three years old) whom we are told (at first) is their younger brother. Satellite takes a keen interest in this orphaned family and develops a crush on the girl, with heart-rending results.

Using mostly non-actors, whose acting is incredibly natural, Ghobadi uses the story of a few days in the lives of these four young people to brilliantly depict the plight of the Kurdish people. Turtles Can Fly is not about the American invasion of Iraq or politics of any kind - it is a profoundly humanizing and moving tale about life in the villages of Kurdistan (where Kathy, my wife, is working as I write).

If this film has flaws, I didn’t notice them. It is a work of art in every way and should get the widest possible exposure. If you haven’t seen Turtles Can Fly and you’re on the lookout for one of the greatest films you’ve never seen, look no further. **** doesn’t seem like nearly enough for this gem. My mug is up and the stuff inside is magical.

1 comment:

  1. When I first watched this movie I could not believe that the children really were able to pick the landmines out of the ground and get them to the market to sell. However, 3 weeks ago I sat in a tiny house in the mountains of Kurdistan on the border with Iran. Our host told us of coming back to the village after the Iran-Iraq war and picking the landmines out of the ground and selling them for the aluminum. Many people died or lost limbs due to this.The village is still surrounded by fields of landmines but they don't harvest them anymore.